'Station 19': Alberto Frezza on Ryan's Fate and Why It Was Time to Say Goodbye (Exclusive)

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Warning: Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday's episode of Station 19. You are about to approach major spoiler territory.

Did Ryan Tanner survive?

On Thursday's episode of Station 19ominously titled "Eulogy," that question was answered fairly quickly -- and unfortunately for Ryan fans, Andy's closest childhood friend and the former Seattle cop couldn't pull out a superhero resurrection after getting shot in the abdomen by a little boy. After being whisked away to the hospital after losing a ton of blood, a flash-forward in time showed Ryan's emotional funeral with his firehouse 19 friends and family tearfully mourning his untimely death. The only one not grieving? Andy, to whom he had just professed his love days earlier.

For actor Alberto Frezza, who has been with the Grey's Anatomy spinoff since the very beginning, he learned of his character's heartbreaking fate several months after the sophomore season wrapped and subsequently spoke with newly installed Station 19 showrunner Krista Vernoff about the creative decision to let Ryan's journey end. "I thought that the story was beautiful," Frezza tells ET of Thursday's episode. But that's not to say he wasn't torn over saying goodbye to a character he's played for over two seasons, confessing that his "heart dropped" when he found out Ryan's fate.

ET spoke with Frezza about saying goodbye to his character, whether he believes Andy and Ryan could have ended up together (for real) and what he hopes his character's death does for Andy and Pruitt's estranged relationship moving forward.

ET: When did you find out that Ryan would die?

Alberto Frezza: I found out a couple months after season two ended. I got a call from my agents letting me know that that was what ABC was thinking. Then [Grey's Anatomy executive producer] Krista Vernoff, who then came on and took over as the showrunner, she ended up calling me and we had a lengthy conversation on the reason why she was doing this, the idea that she had, the storyline that she wanted to create to make this transition for the show and also for Ryan's ultimate death. I thought that the story was beautiful and it's a conversation that needs to be had. 

What was your immediate reaction when you learned your character would no longer be around? Did your heart drop or were you OK with the decision?

I think a little bit of both. Once you get the call and you've been working with the same people for so long and you've built really cool relationships with everybody, it's kind of like ... It's weird in show business. You'll spend six months working with people and then you'll never see them. So that's one thing that I was also battling with was how am I going to navigate all the friendships that I've built throughout these years? Am I going to see anybody anymore? It's difficult because everybody's working, everybody has their own schedules, a lot of people have families, so I guess my heart dropped in that aspect, because the directors I worked with, all the crew that I became friends with, I probably won't be spending that much time with them anymore. That was a little sad.

But then again, I was very OK with the way the storyline of the show was going to go. I know that Krista had a very different vision of what the show was going to be from the past two seasons, and she needed to create a lot of conflict, a lot of drama and a lot of difficult situations for Andy. Once she brought up the idea of how Ryan was going to go out, I was actually very happy with the message, the intention and the storyline.

Station 19

What would have happened had Ryan never gotten shot by that little boy? Have you let yourself think about what might have been?

In the Station 19 world, that's very difficult to answer. In the first season, we had the love triangle with Jack Gibson, so that was something that we were playing with. And then in the second season, Ryan had his own storyline with his father coming into his life who had abandoned him and playing the game of "Am I supposed to be a good cop or do I help my father escape and keep living the criminal life that he's been living for all these years?" Once that ended, it was hard to see Ryan helping the firefighters all the time; for the first season, he was the only cop at the scenes. I think that storyline would have moved over into more of a personal storyline for Ryan. But once his father storyline was gone and this Andy relationship kept going back and forth, I don't know how much we could have seen of him anymore. So I think this was a wonderful way of saying goodbye to the character.

Let's break down specific moments from the episode. One scene that stood out was the conversation Pruitt has with Ryan, after he tells him his cancer has returned and Ryan makes the promise that he'll be there to look out for Andy after he's gone. But we know that doesn't play out that way. Can you talk about that moment?

That's good storytelling. And the most heartbreaking thing, for me at least, was the fact that in those moments after Ryan gets shot, in the moments at the very end when Andy's trying to stop the bleeding, he's trying to get words out. I think that Pruitt flashed in his mind a couple of times because of the promise that he made. And it's also really sad to know that Ryan could have been there, not only for Andy but also for Pruitt in his last moments. The relationship and the friendship that Pruitt and Ryan built throughout the years is also heartbreaking. I think the loss is gut-wrenching because Ryan just told the love of his life that he loves her and he wants to be with her and he also made a promise to the love of his life's father that he's going to take care of her, and he's not able to do any of it.

How do you think Andy and Pruitt move forward from this loss?

There's going to be a huge void created in their lives, but what I'm hoping it'll do -- and I promise you, I don't know -- is that it will bring those two characters together and closer. In that episode, it's very clear and it's very known that Pruitt and Andy are going through a tough time, and she's not really speaking to him. I'm just hoping that the two characters will come together and help each other through it, and also bring them closer as father and daughter. I think it's very beautiful, having this person that's now gone bringing you together rather than bringing you apart.

Station 19

Did you feel like Andy and Ryan could have ended up together?

No, I honestly didn't. What I envisioned mostly... I think that they would have given it one last [shot]. It would have been nice to actually explore their relationship with them, giving their all to actually try to be together if they actually really loved each other. The sad part is that we've never really seen them actually do it because he was getting in trouble with the law and Andy started becoming a firefighter and then he became a police officer. I think they got a little bit distracted by following their professional careers rather than focusing on the relationship, which is totally fine, because it's a growth period. But then again, it would have been nice for him to come back to Seattle and been like, "I really want to try this. Let's see what happens," and seeing the two characters actually take it seriously rather than not. It's sad that we'll never be able to see that.

It's just heartbreaking. Not only is he a very important piece of her life, but the conversation that he was having with her in the kitchen when they were having a beer together, his heart was completely open. I think that, in her eyes, she was very taken aback by it. I bet she definitely still had feelings for him. It's very sad that they won't be able to explore their relationship.

Are there opportunities for you to come back in flashbacks?

They've done flashbacks on Station 19, and they do a lot of flashbacks on Grey's Anatomy. So I'm hoping, fingers crossed, they'll do some flashback episodes and I'll be in them. I'm sure it'll happen.

Station 19 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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