EXCLUSIVE: Jerrika Hinton on 'Gross' Guys of 'Grey's Anatomy' & Life Without McDreamy: 'Hooray for Evolution'

Ian Bailey

Patrick Dempsey’s onscreen death caused uproar, but 18 months after the cast and crew of Grey’s Anatomy returned to work without the actor, they’ve smoothly adapted to set life without one of their series leads.

Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd was shockingly killed off in the long-running drama’s 11th season, and while Dempsey’s character is still mentioned on the show, co-star Jerrika Hinton (Stephanie Edwards) shares that offscreen, the Grey’s icon’s presence has faded.

“Our family is so used to changeover,” the actress told ET at Ending Youth Homelessness: A Benefit for My Friend’s Place in Los Angeles. “We get strangely acclimated very quickly to change and so hooray for evolution! I’d definitely say we’re masters of evolution.”

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While Derek’s death left his long-time love, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), a widowed mom of three, she is slowly moving on from her grief and reluctantly finding romance with newcomer Nathan Riggs, played by New Zealand actor Martin Henderson.

As for Stephanie’s love life, 35-year-old Hinton says that she, too, is still mourning her last love, musician Kyle, played by “lovely and fun” guest star Wilma Valderrama.

“She had her heart broken at the end of last season, so I think you have to have time to heal from that before you move on to a brand-new romance -- even though they like to throw them into your lap any chance they get on Grey’s,” said Hinton, adding that her favorite scene with Valderrama was their first date, in a recording studio. “But I’m looking forward to her grieving first before moving on.”

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So, who would Hinton choose for Stephanie to get cozy with next?

“Oh god, all the guys on the show now are gross,” laughed the Texas native. “They’re not worth it! I should not say gross, but tainted. All of the guys are tainted, so we need new blood. You would have to bring on new people.”

Tainted they may be, but there is one colleague that Hinton would like to work more with as the ABC series gears up for its “exciting” mid-season finale: Henderson.

“Sadly, I don’t get to work with him often,” she noted. “I think we’ve maybe said two words to each other as characters and we were just saying as we passed each other last week, ‘We never see each other!’ I would love to work with Martin more. He’s a wonderful person.”

The actress is also a big fan of another co-star, Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Andrew DeLuca. The close pals have both spent downtime working with My Friend’s Place, a Hollywood organization providing transformative programs and resources to homeless youth.

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Hinton introduced Gianniotti to the resource center after he moved from Toronto to Los Angeles for Grey’s. She was proud to attend the gala to present the 27-year-old actor with the organization’s 2016 Champion of the Year award, for the efforts he has made for the organization.

“It’s a really thrilling feeling when you introduce someone to an organization and they turn out to be just the right person and just the right fit,” said Hinton before handing over the award. “Giacomo has the biggest heart and I’m so, so, so, so honored and grateful to present this award to him and see how he supports the community.”

Ian Bailey

As part of his work with My Friend’s Place, in April, Gianniotti rallied together a team of 41 Grey’s cast and crew members to compete in a fundraising mud run with Tough Mudder. See the exclusive clip below.