The latest installment to our TGIT ritual is only a few months away, and we are getting very excited. ABC’s upcoming firefighter drama will see one of our “Grey’s Anatomy” favorites, Dr. Ben Warren (Jason George), make the switch from surgeon to firefighter, and tell the stories of the first responders that are so often dropping patients off at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.
Here’s everything we know so far about the still-unnamed “Grey’s” spinoff.
When will the show air?
ABC announced this week that the spinoff will have a two-hour premiere on Thursday, March 22 at 9 p.m. The following week it will move to its regular timeslot following “Grey’s Anatomy” as part of the TGIT lineup.
What is the dang title already?
Showrunner Stacy McKee said that conversations are being kept open, but because they have so many ideas right now, “It’s really hard to land on just one that would be perfect,” she said at ABC’s Television Critics Association tour panel Monday.
ABC President Channing Dungey told TheWrap that “coming up with a title is one of the most challenging things that we do,” and that the network “didn’t want to come out with something at TCA and then change it a couple weeks later.”
Dungey also recalled that “Grey’s Anatomy” itself “famously didn’t have a title until literally right before the air.”
Who is in the show?
“Grey’s Anatomy” alum Jason George is the connective tissue, and Jaina Lee Ortiz plays the Seattle Fire Station 19 captain. Grey Damon, Barrett Doss, Alberto Frezza, Jay Hayden, Danielle Savre, Miguel Sandoval and Okieriete Onaodowan round out the cast.
Where did the idea for a new “Grey’s” spinoff come from?
“I always want to tell stories from characters first, so I just loved this idea of having some kind of big, awesome, hilarious, sometimes dysfunctional work family, and the fire station just seemed to work as a really natural setting for that,” McKee told Entertainment Weekly in December. “Plus, it’s an extension of the existing ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ world. I mean, how many times have we seen first responders in the background rushing into the breezeway, dropping off patients and leaving? This way, we just get the chance to jump back into the rig with them and drive away.”
Why focus on Dr. Ben Warren?
“His character seemed like such an organic character to transition into the spinoff, especially once we’d settled on the idea of firefighting and a fire station,” McKee said at TCA. “If you followed Ben Warren as a character, he’s changed careers a couple of times. He always goes after the thing that he thinks is going to satisfy him the most in the moment and he’s never satisfied if he’s stuck somewhere that isn’t fulfilling him. So it just seemed like a really organic, natural transition. Plus, you know, he was playing with fire in the finale of “Grey’s” last season.”
In a recent interview, George told TheWrap that Ben enjoys new challenges, and “that he’s a dude who goes after the things that scare him” — so it makes sense that he’d be a character that would make such a risky move.
How much crossover will there be with characters from “Grey’s”?
McKee told EW back in December that there’s “so much” crossover potential, but it’s unclear so far exactly how often character’s from “Grey’s” will pop up in the spinoff and vice versa. We’re hoping to at least see some of Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), given that she’s married to Ben. But as George told TheWrap, “risking your life on a day to day thing, that goes into deal breaker territory.” Fingers crossed the couple lasts.
At TCA this week, McKee said “it all depends” when asked about how often characters will bounce back and forth. “The great thing about it is that we exist in the same universe,” she said. “So there’s definitely the potential to have people or places in small ways or big ways, and we’re excited about all of the possibilities… You just never know.”
From where are the writers drawing inspiration?
We know that the writers on “Grey’s Anatomy” often get inspired from real life medical events, and the writers for the spinoff are following suit.
“One of the things that’s so incredible about this show is that we have the chance — the same way that ‘Grey’s’ taught a lot of people about medicine and surgery and sort of the ins and outs and the steps of that–we can do that with this show, too,” McKee said at TCA. “We’re looking at real-life articles and also things that might have happened to some of us personally. And we’re really trying to focus on events that aren’t just the craziest fire of the week, but could also just be something that might happen to any one of us.”
Executive producer Paris Barclay added that firefighter advisors are available to the writers and on set. He said that “a lot of what we do is informed by these real firefighters who are technical advisors who work here in L.A., and on their off days they come and they help us make the show.” Recently, production meetings were stalled because the advisors were too busy dealing with the California Wildfires.
How similar will the feel of the spinoff be to the feel of “Grey’s”?
McKee said Monday that while the shows are “similar in both tone and intensity, and humor and heart,” there’s an added element to the spinoff “that a hospital setting doesn’t allow, which is that a lot of our characters are on-site, and they are in the middle of action sequences.”
Barclay added that the differences are “slight,” but the spinoff will still have its own signatures. “It’s like having dinner at your uncle’s, but your mother’s still cooking,” he said.
It should “feel like ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ certainly, when we’re on those ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ sets,” he said. “It’s just a high-quality look.”
“But as we went to the fire station, we tried some more things,” he added. “We tried to make the fires more involving. We tried to put you in the fire with the firefighters and make that a little bit more active. And I have to say one of the things that I love about the show is we started — or we ended each act with a little bit of a pre-cap of what’s going to be the next act coming up. So we wanted to make that our signature.”
What did the cast do to prepare?
Lead actress Ortiz said in a recent Facebook Live interview that she followed a couple of female fire captains around, and even completed the candidate physical ability test. George, in the same video, said he took a few of his firefighting buddies out for a beer to pick their brains.
Onaodowan, who plays one of the firefighters, said at the TCA panel that all the gear used on the show is real. “Everything we are wearing is actually, like, up-to-snuff firefighter gear,” he said. “And we had a week before we started shooting where we were all kind of trained with firefighters.”
He added that one thing he learned from hanging around the firefighters was that a lot of the job takes mental fitness, not just physical. “It’s like running a marathon,” he said.
“Some firefighters literally wait on call,” Onaodowan continued. “They’ll sit in that heavy gear an hour, two hours, waiting to call in, waiting to do something, and that kind of mental fortitude really helps you understand how a person is. And all that came from physical training, but, you know, you just get to understand what it takes for someone to want to do this and have that patience to, kind of, just wait to jump and put their lives on the line. It’s kind of dope.”
We’ll be sure to update with any more info on the spinoff — including it’s forthcoming title — as it comes!