When it comes to Grey’s Anatomy, one thing’s for sure: ABC’s long-running medical drama knows how to keep people on their toes — even in its 17th season. After delighting viewers with the unexpected return of McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, a promo teeing up Thursday’s episode promised yet another return of a beloved character. As fans speculated over who could be next to re-emerge in Meredith’s COVID dream, guesses ranged from Izzie to George to Lexie to even Doc, Meredith and Derek’s cherished dog.
“I’ll say this. In a dream, anything is possible,” Grey’s star Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Andrew DeLuca, teased to ET during a recent phone interview while promoting his indie film, Acquainted. “Anything is possible in a dream.”
While the Italian-born actor’s coy response doesn’t offer any clarity on the identity of the mystery person, he discussed the impact of having Dempsey back for a small arc years after leaving midway through season 11. Coincidentally, Gianniotti joined Grey’s a handful of episodes after Derek Shepherd was killed off.
“It’s been amazing. I mean, the internet exploded. Everybody was just so excited to see their beloved character return,” Gianniotti said of the flood of social media reactions after the season 17 premiere. “I didn’t get to work with him in this capacity because it was just him and Ellen [Pompeo] on the beach. But it’s been seven seasons because it’s my whole time that I’ve been on that he’s been gone.”
“There’s been a longing for that character. We’ve, in the past, reintroduced older characters in dreams. You’ve got to see some of those older characters that have come back, but Patrick was never on that list. I think it’s exciting that the fans are going to get to see a little bit of him in this time where she’s in this unconscious state and she can explore things that they wouldn’t have normally thought to explore in the hospital because that character is dead,” he noted. “It’s a great thing for the show and for the fans. That’s another reason why I think this season is special. I think it’s going to be one of the best.”
With Meredith going through debilitating side effects from the coronavirus, so much so she appointed Richard Webber to oversee all medical decisions should she take a turn for the worst, any romantic reconciliation between her and DeLuca, who is adapting to his new normal with bipolar disorder, are being put on the backburner for now.
“There’s a romance certainly between DeLuca and Meredith that is hanging in the balance, but now that he’s got some medications, sleeping better, therapy, lost a little weight, getting his health all back in check, you need some time to get yourself in check. Now that he’s a little bit on the mend, I think he was starting to maybe reopen the possibility of picking up where he left off with Meredith,” Gianniotti pondered. “But before he even has the opportunity to breach that conversation with her, she gets COVID.”
“Of course, her life is the most important thing. Any kind of personal emotional baggage is put on hold both for Meredith and for DeLuca,” he continued. “Right now he’s just concerned on saving this woman he loves and who at the very least is a best friend. He’s her primary healthcare provider alongside Teddy, and they formed this team to take care of Meredith. Any emotional stuff right now, it’s put on pause because saving her life is the most important thing. All that will have to wait.”
Outside of Grey’s, Gianniotti is preparing for the release of a romantic drama he filmed a few years ago, Acquainted, which, as he describes it, is “a love letter to today’s love, an evolved love, the modern love” and brings to the forefront the subjective definition of what infidelity is. In the film, Gianniotti plays Drew, a guy in a committed — albeit monotonous — relationship, who, after reconnecting with an old acquaintance, Emma (Laysla de Oliveira), finds himself entangled in a very messy web of secret hook-ups and romantic missteps.
“This film for me reflected what I felt dating was like for a lot of my friends and people in my life and my age. They get to 30 and maybe you’re not really where you thought you’d been your career by now. Maybe you thought you’d be married with kids by now and you’re not. That’s a societal pressure that disproportionately affects women, I think, more than men, but it’s still a pressure nonetheless,” said Gianniotti, who is also a producer. “Then the question of fidelity is, what is fidelity? What is cheating? Each person in a couple defines that in their own way. I could ask what is cheating to 10 different people and they might all give me a slightly different answer. It’s a more modern, open world we’re living in now where a lot of those old traditional constructs are eroding away. How do we live in that? How do we fit in that?”
“Drew is put in this situation where he’s been in this relationship with this woman he loves for a long time, but it has fallen into routine, going through the motions in the day to day. He meets Emma, who excites him and is thrilling and is fun and is new and sparks some youth in him. He’s left with this dilemma of, ‘Do I double down on this thing that I’ve invested so much time and effort and money and emotion for this new thing that is giving me temporary new joy?'” he continued. “It’s a dilemma that a lot of us face. Our friends around us are having kids and getting married and may pressure us into stepping further into a relationship that we’re in. Social media also is another big part of our time and certainly plays a part in this film of, we’re constantly having to see the next option that we could be with on Instagram every day. I feel like it pushes us to be less confident in the relationship that we’ve built and made us more insecure. These are all the themes that the film plays around with. How fragile relationships are now.”
Though there may be instances where Drew makes the unpopular decision, the 31-year-old actor didn’t judge his character for any eyebrow-raising moves made.
“A large part of why I played Drew and why I took the role is because I identify with a lot of stuff he was going through and I’ve been through it myself. I related to a lot of the decisions that he was making or having to make or thinking of making, just those dilemmas of being in something for a long time and not feeling stimulated by it but you feel like you’d been in it for so long so you just feel like, ‘Who am I without this relationship?'” Gianniotti shared. “These are all things that people go through and we wanted to showcase them. I wasn’t having trouble justifying any of his actions. I think he could have played some parts a little bit better, a little bit smoother. I think love and infatuation can make us do a lot of crazy things. If we’re starved of love, it can make us do even crazier things because we’re so thirsty for it that it’ll push us to do actions that we didn’t think we were capable of. We crave being loved. We crave connection. We crave affection. When we’re starved of those things, we’re capable to do a lot of things that hurt people unfortunately.”
Watch the official trailer for Acquainted below.
The ending, which sees Emma breaking things off with Drew and may be up for interpretation, can be read many different ways. Does Drew go after Emma? Does Drew go back to his girlfriend? The uncertainty surrounding the movie’s final scene is one of the reasons why Gianniotti was drawn to the project.
“That was a big goal of Natty Zavitz, our director. We didn’t want to wrap it up in a pretty bow. We wanted it to be open so that people can decide what they think happened with the rest of the story. We also didn’t want there to be any heroes and villains. We don’t try to make anyone look bad or punish anyone for their actions. We try to have everyone be seen objectively and then you can pick who you’re rooting for, which will all probably be based on your own life experience and things you’ve been through,” he explained. “If you’ve been cheated on, then you might not want to see somebody cheat on somebody and you might think, ‘Oh God, I don’t like that person. How could you cheat?’ But we tried to make it as clear as possible and not favor anyone or make everyone seem evil, that these are just people who were in certain situations and they made the best decision they could.”
Acquainted is available Video on Demand and DVD on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
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