Alright, “Grey’s” fans, we’ve made it to 300 episodes! We can’t believe it either, but we’ve been picking “Grey’s,” choosing “Grey’s” and loving “Grey’s” for 14 seasons now and we aren’t showing any signs of stopping. To celebrate this milestone, we’ve rounded up 30 fun facts about the show that you might not know (we were going to do 300, but that’s a lot). Test your “Grey’s” trivia ahead.
1. Other cities were in the running as the show’s backdrop
Shonda Rhimes wanted the show to take place in a big city where surgeons would come for big opportunities. “This is not a small town life. Big city, big medical center, big surgical opportunities,” Rhimes said in a recent Master Class.
She thought about placing the medical drama in Chicago, her hometown, but didn’t want to place it in the same city as “ER.”
“Seattle felt fresh to me,” Rhimes said. “Seattle felt like a city I hadn’t seen in television a lot.”
2. Rhimes has a casting rule to keep her shows diverse
“Take half the characters that you made men, and make them women. Take one character you were gonna cast one color, cast them differently,” Rhimes said in the same Master Class. “I think it’s important for people to rethink because what people see on television changes what people think about themselves.”
A perfect example of this is Miranda Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) character, who was originally described as a “tiny blonde with curls.”
3. Rhimes stopped writing physical descriptions of her characters
Jumping off her casting rules, after casting Wilson for Miranda Bailey, Rhimes stopped describing specific physical traits for her characters. Instead, she describes feelings characters give off. For example, when writing Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the Season 2 character that Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) falls for, Rhimes described him like this: “he has a quality that makes you want to lick him.”
4. Bailey’s character is based on Rhimes’ mother
Speaking of Bailey, Rhimes said in an interview with Oprah for “O” magazine that the character is “a little bit” based off her mother.
“She’s very no-nonsense. Dr. Bailey says stuff like ‘These people are nasty—all they think about is sex while we’re trying to save lives here.’ My mother is definitely that kind of realist.”
5. Strong women were the center from the beginning
“I wanted to create a world in which you felt as if you were watching very real women,” Rhimes said in an interview with Oprah. “Most of the women I saw on TV didn’t seem like people I actually knew. They felt like ideas of what women are. They never got to be nasty or competitive or hungry or angry. They were often just the loving wife or the nice friend. But who gets to be the b—-? Who gets to be the three-dimensional woman?”
6. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd’s nickname was inspired by Patrick Dempsey’s real-life charm
“When we were shooting the pilot, Patrick was seriously the most adorable man we’d ever seen on camera,” Rhimes said in the same interview. “We’d watch the monitor and think, ‘Look at his dreamy eyes!’ So we started calling him Patrick McDreamy, and it stuck.”
7. Alex Karev was added after the pilot was already shot
“The character wasn’t even created yet,” actor Justin Chambers said at a Paley Convention in 2008. “They sent the pilot to New York, where I live, and I saw it and I loved it and I went out to LA to try to win the part and auditioned and got the role, so that’s how Alex came about.”
8. Meredith Grey’s childhood home is a real house in Queen Anne, Seattle
Queen Anne is one of the most expensive areas of Seattle, but the house where Mer and an ever-rotating cast of friends and fellow doctors live is located on the top of the affluent hill. The house on the show is located at the fictional 613 Harper Lane, and in real life at 303 Comstock Street. It’s affordable because Meredith inherited the house from her mother.
9. Jesse Williams was a teacher before being cast as Jackson Avery
Can you imagine having Jesse Williams as your teacher in high school? Yeah… we can’t either. The heartthrob plastic surgeon (and recent billionaire) on the show told Ellen back in 2010 that he’s taught a lot of grades, from high schoolers to kindergartners.
10. Cow organs are used for surgery scenes
Sarah Drew, who plays April Kepner on the show, described to the Miami Herald what they use in the OR to recreate surgery.
“We work with Bovine organs, which is cow’s organs. The smell is repulsive and makes us all gag,” Drew said in 2010. “And we use an actual soldering tool to solder the organs. It smells like burning flesh. There’s also a lot of silicone and blood matter – red jello [jelly] mixed with blood and chicken fat. It’s pretty gross.”
11. Bailey’s classic euphemism “vajayjay” came from an assistant on set
Similar to Derek’s “McDreamy” nickname being inspired onset, so was Miranda Bailey’s iconic term “vajayjay” instead of “vagina.” In that same Oprah interview, Rhimes explained that she heard an assistant use the term and loved it so much she put it in the script. She also said that the network didn’t like how often they were using the word “vagina.”
Rhimes explained: “I kept saying, ‘It’s a medical show! We can’t say ‘vagina,’ but we can say ‘penis’ a million times in an episode?’ In one of our first shows, we used the word ‘penis’ about 32 times—but when we said ‘vagina’ twice, the broadcast-standards people blinked. We fought that and won—but ‘va-jay-jay’ is our favorite alternate term.”
12. A real plastic surgeon made one of Jackson Avery’s props
You might remember back to Season 8, Episode 20, when Jackson (Jesse Williams) carves some pretty impressive ear models… out of hand soap. Well, those were actually crafted by real-life plastic surgeon Dr. Gregory Lakin.
“This plastic surgeon had pioneered this as a teaching tool for other plastic surgeons,” one of “Grey’s” propmasters Angela Whiting told Buzzfeed back in 2013. “He’s really, really good at sculpting ears, and he found that the material in soap was easy to use — because ears are complicated little things.”
13. ABC didn’t expect the show to survive after Patrick Dempsey left
In a recent interview with Seth Meyers, Ellen Pompeo said that it no one wanted to see the show evolve.
“The journey of it has been interesting because obviously we’ve had our ups and downs behind the scenes,” Pompeo said. “Right now where we are is such a different place from where we started.”
“No one’s open to letting it evolve,” she said to Meyers’ question about whether or not production was open to letting the show change. “I think that, you know, everybody was devastated when Patrick Dempsey left, and I think that the network especially thought the show was never gonna make it. And they rushed in a new love interest like 30 seconds later. Because I could never carry the show,” she joked.
14. Ellen Pompeo turns from star to director
“I really think every actor should direct, because it really is a completely different viewpoint,” Pompeo said in her sit-down with Meyers. “But again, I’m super blessed because Shonda Rhimes has allowed me to evolve with the show and direct and help produce the show. So now I have more ownership of the show and much more say.”
Pompeo’s directing credits include Season 13 Episode 18, “Be Still, My Soul,” in which Meredith’s half sister Maggie’s adoptive mother passes away.
15. There are two “So You Think You Can Dance” alums on the show
Yes, SYTYCD fans, there are not one, but two members of the reality show on “Grey’s.” First, Debbie Allen, who plays powerhouse Dr. Catherine Avery–wife to Richard Webber and mother to Jackson Avery–has been a guest judge on SYTYCD several times. She founded the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and has won several awards for her dancing career.
The second SYTYCD alum is Jeanine Mason, who was just introduced in last week’s episode as one of the new interns. Since winning Season 5 of SYTYCD, Mason has dipped her toes in acting, most notably in “Bunheads” as recurring character Cozette, and in guest appearances on “You’re the Worst” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” as well as other shows.
16. The Megan Hunt backstory episode is based on a vet’s true-life experiences
In Season 14, we finally get to meet Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer), Dr. Owen Hunt’s little sister and Dr. Nathan Riggs’ love interest long thought to be dead. In Episode 5 of this season, “Danger Zone,” we got some more backstory on those three characters, who all served in Iraq together before Megan went missing.
Jalysa Conway, a vet and the writer of the episode, said she drew on her own experiences in the Air Force to write that part of Megan’s story.
“I did draw a lot from my own personal experience,” Conway told People. “They’re both young officers at the time dealing with all types of pressure. I thought back to the time when I was a first lieutenant, as Megan is in this episode, and thought about what I was worried about at the time and how I could articulate that through the story.”
17. Sandra Oh said “thank you” to everyone on set the day she left
When Sandra Oh left the show, she went around on her last day of work and “gave out 250 gifts,” she told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2014.
“To give these gifts out personally and to look people in the face and say “Thank you” to everyone — my stand-in, the grips, post, production, the writers — that helped me process a lot,” Oh said. “That is why I think the day was joyous. With each person I was able to have a personal moment and tell them what I thought about them.”
The gift she gave? “It was this beautiful champagne in a box, and on it is an anatomical heart and a ‘10.’ It’s was like, ‘Here’s my heart in a box for a celebration. Please take it. This is my gift of thanks.’ It was inscribed on the back with a card, too.”
18. Sandra Oh is also a bit of a gay icon
In 2006, Out magazine named Oh “Hottest Gay Icon in the Making.” Oh has played several lesbian characters in movies like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and in theater.
Oh told Out at the time that she thinks the gay community latched on to her character Cristina on “Grey’s” because “she’s someone who is their own person who is bucking a lot of things.”
“But the wittiness, her sense of humor, comes from a beautifully arrogant and insecure place,” she said. “I like that about her. I find it fascinating. I think you have to be a fairly aware person to play someone who is deeply unaware.”
19. The stars of “Grey’s” have co-starred in movies
Kate Walsh (Addison Shepherd) and Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) played a lesbian couple in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd) and Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt) both appeared in “Made of Honor.”
20. Camilla Luddington actually missed her audition for the role of Jo Wilson
In an interview with AOL in 2016, Luddington explained that she missed the auditions for Alex Karev’s new love interest because she was too busy promoting “Tomb Raider,” in San Diego–she voices Lara Croft for the 2013 and 2015 games.
“I heard by Friday evening that they could not find the girl, and Shonda obviously knew me from a previous TV show, so she called me and on Monday, and I think I knew by Wednesday, and I started Friday,” Luddington said.
21. Sara Ramirez is a Tony-winning actress, and her singing shops are part of the reason we got a musical episode
To convince the execs at ABC to greenlight a musical episode, Shonda Rhimes enlisted the skills of Sara Ramirez (Callie Torres), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) and Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt), to perform, according to EW.
Ramirez told Oprah in a 2008 interview that she was cast in the first place after ABC Touchstone saw her Tony-winning performance in “Spamalot” as “Lady of the Lake.”
“They said be on our network, pick a show. They sent me every show they had, and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was my favorite, and I said that’s the one I want to be on,” she said.
22. Chandra Wilson is also a Broadway star
Fun fact: Wilson is also a Broadway alum. She acted in “Chicago” as Matron “Mama” Morton, “Caroline, Or Change,” “On the Town” and “Avenue Q.” She’s also presented at the Tony Awards.
23. The helipad scenes are filmed at a news station in Seattle
There are plenty of times the team at Seattle Grace needs to life-flight in a patient in dire circumstances and the surgeons meet the helicopter on the landing pad on top of the hospital. Those scenes are filmed at local Seattle ABC affiliate station KOMO-TV.
24. Chandra Wilson and Kevin McKidd have also directed episodes of the show
Pompeo isn’t the only one who has pulled the star-turned-director move. Chandra Wilson has directed 17 episodes (her first was back in 2009), according to IMDB. She’s also directed one episode for another Shondaland staple, “Scandal.” Kevin McKidd has directed 18 episodes, including two so far from Season 14.
25. Many of the show’s storylines are based on real medical cases
The researchers on the writer’s team spends hours pouring over medical journals to find interesting cases to use in “Grey’s” storylines. They also receive tips from fans about medical stories they think are interesting, executive producer Zoanne Clack said in an ABC bonus interview video in 2014.
26. Isaiah Washington learned how to perform the surgeries written for his character
Washington’s cool, calculated portrayal of Dr. Burke makes you feel like you’re watching a real doctor work on screen. And that’s not solely because of his acting chops–Washington actually learned how to perform the surgeries before it was time to shoot. And according to Rhimes, he was even known to pull 48-hour shifts shadowing real surgeons at hospitals.
27. All the episodes are named after a song, and Shonda Rhimes helps pick the score
One of our favorite things about “Grey’s” is the perfect soundtrack that always helps pull at our heartstrings. Rhimes told Oprah that helping with the score of the show is “the highlight of my job.”
“I get a rush when I find exactly the right music for a scene,” she said. “We do current stuff, older stuff, even stuff we’ve never heard before.”
28. Rhimes used comparisons to “Sex in the City” for her initial pitch for the show
Rhimes wanted Meredith’s point of view to be “a more grounded version of Carrie’s articles in ‘Sex and the City,’” even though it wasn’t her “favorite” way to pitch the show. She’s given “Grey’s” a nickname spun off the HBO hit, though: “Sex and the Surgery.”
29. Denny was originally going to have a very different love interest
The fan-favorite storyline of Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Izzie (Katherine Heigl)’s ill-fated super-rich patient-turned-husband, was initially going to go pretty differently. We love Cristina’s relationship with Burke (and later Owen), but can you picture her falling for heart patient Denny? We guess it could make sense, given her obsession with becoming the best heart surgeon ever. Rhimes revealed in a Master Class that Cristina’s original plotline involved falling in love with a dying patient.
30. There have been plenty of guest stars on the show over the years, but this one’s our favorite…
Darby Camp, who played future DJ Chloe Mackenzie in the Emmy-winning HBO drama “Big Little Lies” earlier this year, was a major character in the exit story of Dr. Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) last season. She played Erin Miller, a young girl who ends up in the wrong area of the hospital at the wrong time, to say the least.