The actress also discusses her twisty arc on Freeform's 'Cruel Summer.'
Sarah Drew returns to Grey's Anatomy as fan-favorite April Kepner in the May 6 episode, "Look Up Child," reuniting her with former co-star Jesse Williams in what's sure to be a deeply emotional hour. In ABC's official description for Drew's episode, it coyly skirts around April's sudden re-emergence, only to tease that Jackson visits his father, which "helps set him on the right path."
Drew admitted she had to keep her Grey's return a secret "for a little while." (It was officially announced in March.)
"I didn't fully believe it was happening until I literally signed the contract, which didn't come until a while after the initial conversations," the 40-year-old actress told ET's Katie Krause while promoting Cruel Summer. "It started with an initial conversation, and I was like, 'This sounds interesting, the story sounds interesting.' But you never know if the storyline is going to change or they're going to change their mind, so I didn't really settle into the reality that it was happening until I knew 100 percent it was happening. Then, by that point, I was about to show up on set and so it was like, 'I can't wait to see everyone!'"
Walking back on the familiar Grey's set after three years was "wonderful," Drew shared. "I felt so warmly embraced. It felt like coming home. My heart just leapt. Every person I saw, I was like, 'Ahh! I've missed you!' It was a very sweet homecoming."
Drew left at the end of season 14 after nine years on the long-running ABC medical drama. She was first introduced midway through season 6 when Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital merged with Mercy West. Her character has a young daughter, Harriet, with Williams' Jackson Avery. In her final episode, April married Matthew Taylor (Justin Bruening).
Drew said that when things pick up, April has continued to live nearby in Seattle with Matthew and co-parenting Harriet with Jackson. As to why Jackson impulsively makes the drive over to April's home for a late-night visit? That's one thing Drew "cannot say."
"I can't reveal anything about the reason he's coming to talk to her, but I think it's important to realize that nothing changed in their interaction of co-parenting this child," she said. "They've seen one another. They've been co-parenting this whole time. I don't know exactly what the custody is between the two of them, but he has Harriet sometimes, she has Harriet sometimes. There's a handoff that's happening all the time continuously throughout the pandemic." Drew emphasized again that the exes have "always been a healthy, working, co-parenting team."
Asked whether April and Jackson get closure after the episode, Drew remained coy: "I would love to answer that question, but I also cannot answer that question."
"These two characters having had such a long time to develop a story, you have so much information to draw on from so many years that were on screen," she said. "They weren't just imagined, they weren't just something that you create as backstory. It's stuff that the audience has tracked and seen, that we have played, experienced and taken a journey through. So there's so many layers that you can play together when you have that kind of breadth of time that you've spent onscreen together. That is so rare. You just don't get that. Shows don't last this long. You don't have that much material to draw from in most cases. So it makes the whole thing feel so much more human, and so much easier, and so much more delightful and juicy."
Drew remained optimistic that there could be an opportunity for her to "come back" for more episodes down the line. "I think the door was always open for April to appear in more episodes because she was still in Seattle co-parenting with Jackson. It's just a matter of what works for the story," she said.
On Freeform's Cruel Summer, Drew plays Jeanette's mother Cindy, who was once the most popular girl in town. Now, she's struggling to hold her family together while at the center of the town's gossip. The psychological thriller follows two young women, Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), the popular girl with a charmed life who one day goes missing, and Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), the nerdy wannabe who is accused of being connected to Kate’s disappearance. Set over three summers in the 1990s and told through both girls' points of view, the Freeform drama follows how one girl can go from being a sweet outlier to the most despised person in America.
"I believe both of them," Drew said of whether Kate or Jeanette are telling the truth. "That's the thing that makes it so hard, is that you care about, and love, and are rooting for both of them at different moments. There are moments where you're like, 'Whoa, that was cold,' but then something else gets revealed that makes you go, 'Wait, hang on a sec... But I don't understand why she said that thing or why she did that thing.' It's a thin line between villain and victim."
"They're both so likable and the interesting thing about the show is that it really does investigate the experience of trauma," she continued. "Both of these young women have been traumatized in pretty profound ways. It manifests in different ways on different dates for both of them, so you can't help but feel for both of them in their situations. But you do, as a viewer, just want to know what actually happened. Like, what is going on? Is this all a giant misunderstanding or is somebody lying?"
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