When Grey's Anatomy kicks off the second half of its 14th season on Thursday, the cat-and-mouse game between newbie surgical intern Dr. Sam Bello (Jeanine Mason) and Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) is about to get even juicier.
Up to this point, Sam and DeLuca's past romantic entanglements were revealed to be complex at best. The two had dated in the recent past, with DeLuca moving across the country without so much as a phone call -- and then they unexpectedly bumped into each other at Grey Sloan.
Mason, who was offered her plum Grey's role after working with executive producer/director Debbie Allen on a prior project, teased that the will they-won't they tension between the exes with benefits-turned-colleagues will be a running through-line for the rest of the season.
"Things continue to unfold between Sam and DeLuca, but you'll see starting in Thursday's [winter] premiere, Sam starts to regain her strength and assert her space and say to him, 'Stop distracting me. Let me do my work,'" the 27-year-old actress tells ET. "She is brilliant and she is top of her class and she is so very distracted by him. I'm excited for that push and pull to be introduced. It's a fun game that they start to play where they're actively starting to resist each other."
The So You Think You Can Dance and Bunheads alum credited the writers for knowing exactly what to focus on when it comes to potential new relationships to explore as the series goes on. It is, to be frank, a signature Grey's staple.
"The writers are the best in the game at that. They have such a good time leaning into it. They just know where the tension is -- the classic Grey's sexual tension -- combined with work responsibilities," Mason says with a chuckle. "They really lean into it with Sam and DeLuca. There are a few episodes coming up where it's just devilish."
Mason revealed that she didn't see the Sam and DeLuca storyline coming at all. "It was totally a surprise," she admitted. "That's another signature technique of the writers: things coming way out of left field. They love to surprise and keep us off our guard. It's been so fun that they've been leaning into their dynamic and to their little cat-and-mouse game because Giacomo and I are having a great time doing it."
Things are sure to heat up exponentially. As Mason teased, it'll be revealed soon that Sam and DeLuca will be working under Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) in the neuroscience department. "We're just in the same little room working with brains all day long," Mason said with a laugh. "It's just a perfect set-up to watch the relationship unfold one way or the other."
Mason, who is Cuban American, shared her excitement in following in former Grey's star Sara Ramirez's footsteps.
"I'm excited that Sam is Latina, which is something that will be played with in the show. It's been a minute since there's been a Latina character on the show," Mason said, referencing the 2016 exit of Ramirez's Callie Torres. "Sara Ramirez was my favorite thing on the planet when she was on the show."
Last week, ABC unveiled a six-episode companion web series, Grey's Anatomy: B-Team, spotlighting the new Grey Sloan interns, which marked the directorial debut of series star Sarah Drew. Mason recalled Drew's nervousness over stepping behind the camera for the first time.
"She was so prepared and so adorable in her talent and in her passion in what she was doing on set. She kept going, 'This is really hard! Directing is hard!' and then she would run to video village -- you would never think she was sweating at all -- and then she would run back to set and give me a note and say, 'Oh my god, this is harder than acting.' It was the cutest thing ever. She was a joy."
Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
How Ellen Pompeo Negotiated Her Massive 'Grey's Anatomy' Salary After Patrick Dempsey's 'Tumultuous End'
Joy Lenz Dishes on Joining 'Grey's Anatomy' and Why Her Arc Will 'Really Resonate' (Exclusive)
'Grey's Anatomy' Launches Web Series Focused on the New Interns