‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Kim Raver Shares How ‘24’ Influenced How She Directed That Cliffhanger

Kim Raver and Chandra Wilson in 'Grey's Anatomy'
Spoiler Alert
ABC/Liliane Lathan

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 19 Episode 11, “Training Day.”]

Kim Raver goes behind the camera for an important episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and just when you think you can breathe…

Kate Walsh returns as Dr. Addison Montgomery as the clinic welcomes OB/GYN trainees from states restricting how they practice to teach them abortion care. It’s a rough shift, and just when they think they can breathe, a car runs over Addison and one of the trainees as they leave through the back.

Raver offers a director’s perspective on this episode.

You did an amazing job directing this episode. It was emotional, important, chaotic, and I felt all that throughout.

Kim Raver: That makes me feel so good. It’s massive, right? Isn’t it incredible how many things they have in there? What I love about Grey’s is they weren’t like, “oh, it’s your first episode, let’s just do everything in the ER.” It was like, “you’ve got a stunt with a car, you’ve got a stunt with a brick, you’ve got a song, you’ve got Kate Walsh coming back.” I was like, “Yeah, bring it on.”

There’s all that, and sometimes actors may be in an episode less if they’re directing, but Teddy is everywhere.

I know! Kevin [McKidd] said to me, “Wait a minute. My first episode I directed, they sent Owen to the dentist.” I was like, “not me!”

How did you directing Grey’s come about?

I think what’s so amazing about Shondaland is there’s so many women doing so many incredible jobs, and that really starts at Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers and then the amazing women that they’ve hired, Debbie Allen and Krista Vernoff and Meg [Marinis]. About three years ago, I started producing, and I got the rights to this series of books and my husband and I co-directed together and executive produced. I just thought, “wow, this is the most amazing thing ever. I love this.” But I had never directed alone. Then I started watching Chandra Wilson and Kevin McKidd, and Debbie Allen, and I secretly was having these thoughts to myself, but I wanted to just observe and learn as much as I could. When they would change the lights, instead of going in the green room and hanging out with everyone, I would be watching everything that they were doing.


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Then I got up the guts to talk to Debbie, and I said, “Look, I really want to direct.” It’s not a given at Grey’s just because you’re an actor that that they’re going to let you direct. You have to prove yourself to Debbie. And it’s such a smart thing because she sets you up for success. Because had she not made me shadow her [and] really mentored me … I feel like I was so prepared for when I finally got this huge episode because of all of the things that I had to do along the way. … Then she gave me Episode 11, and they handed me this incredible episode.

Talk about directing that ending because you’re setting up the cliffhanger, you have the cliffhanger itself, and you have that conversation between Addison and the trainee.

When they’re coming out of the clinic, I wanted this feeling of the storm had passed. It’s a huge storyline through and through, and everyone’s been through a lot. I wanted that kind of calm so that when the car came, it’s such a shock that I literally wanted people to gasp. I had originally thought I was going to do a crane shot up off of Addison, and then while we were shooting, I screamed after the actors, “Run in! Run in! Do your doctoring,” because I know being on the show, the first thing that we would do is go in and do medical on our own.

I screamed at Chandra, “Do the ABCs! Do the ABCs!” so she tilted her head and she listened. For me, that moment where we don’t know what’s going to happen and we had this incredible storyline and this friendship and doctors working together, and here they are in this life-threatening moment that I also really wanted to incorporate Bailey in that moment because they’ve been through so much together. They have that incredible scene in the closet beforehand and a couple episodes back that Jesse Williams directed. So I definitely wanted to keep this story through line together all the way to the end.

And then I wanted that feeling of, on a show that I did called 24, one of the things I loved that they did is that just when you felt so satisfied, and you got this juicy tidbit, and you thought you had solved the whole thing, in the last 30 seconds, they give you this question where you’re like, “What is happening?!” and then they go out. I just wanted you to have this kind of emotional gut punch and then be like, “Wait, what?” and to set up leading into Kevin’s episode. That’s how I thought about it in the design of it. And it always goes to the story: What story am I telling? I’m telling a very important discussion that is going on in our world today, and I want it in that moment as well to carry that through line.

What’s next after that cliffhanger?

I will say that Kevin does the most incredible opening shot. We had to rehearse this huge scene connected to scene connected to scene that is so exquisitely done that you’re on the edge of [your] seat the whole first act. I feel like it’s a beautiful cinematically continuing of the story that we do in 11.

You mentioned it before, and I have to say the scene with Addison and Bailey in the supply room was one of the best of the episode. Talk about directing that because you did such a great job. And Kate and Chandra were fantastic in it.

They were so supportive. Look, all of the actors in our cast, they can do their characters in their sleep. They don’t need anything from me. But they were so generous to hear my little tidbit notes that I would whisper to them that I had envisioned as the whole piece and the whole story that I wanted to tell. So for me, it was such a gift that we shot it very quiet. I had three cameras on them, and the performances that they were delivering were blowing me away in video village. There was one or two things that I wanted to just play around with them, [and] have fun. Kate and Chandra just knocked it out of the park.

What were the most fun and most challenging scenes to direct?

The idea of having these two enormous stunts. We don’t do a lot of stunts on Grey’s. And the song was really threading a needle because I didn’t want it comedic [or] sappy or melodramatic. It really had to be a very specific moment, and for me, it’s about these women coming together and overcoming. I felt like the minute I clued into the story point of what it was, it then took off from there, which was exciting. But that was really challenging because, first of all, it’s in the clinic, it’s a woman giving birth, so you have to strategically place the cameras. You still want to see the rest of the clinic because it’s scripted that everyone in the clinic is singing, so you can’t have curtains. So we had to literally piece by piece design that clinic, and we had never shot in the clinic. It was the first time we were shooting there. That’s really a shout-out to the incredible crew of Grey’s Anatomy, the design, and the collaboration.

And then the same with the stunts. Our stunt people have this incredible stuff where they jump up onto the hood of the car. In my mind, I gave reasons why they were crossing the street, why were they in the middle of the road. I designed those papers falling to the ground and then them picking them up. But in your mind is one thing, and this being my first one, I just wasn’t sure whether what was in my mind was actually going to execute and come out right.

So for me, the challenging ones were also the most rewarding because they were so massive. And I think one of the most rewarding things for me is to really be able to collaborate with the actors. It’s one thing when you’re acting with someone, you learn something about a person. You learn a different and another beautiful layer about this cast when you’re directing them, and what’s so amazing is every single person has a different way of working. … I would watch these performances and the things that I had imagined in my head, I would watch them unfold and the collaboration between the camera and the actors. And we have to do a shout-out for my DP. She’s this just brilliant female DP. We are really women supporting women.

… Another thing that I tried to do was echo back to some really fun, original Grey’s Anatomy moments with the interns and also with Bailey. It was so important that I had that one scene where Bailey is looking out about to start the day at the clinic, and the sun is rising. That moment was so important for me because I felt like Chandra and Jim [Pickens Jr.] have been here since the beginning, and I just wanted, especially with reproductive rights, her to have her moment there.

Chandra Wilson in 'Grey's Anatomy'

ABC/Liliane Lathan

And then also some really fun little kind of winks at the fans. Originally I think Simone [Alexis Floyd] is supposed to be in bed talking to Trey [William Martinez], and I had her getting out of bed, going into her bathroom, and there’s no toothpaste, so then she goes into the communal bathroom, and there’s people in [there]. I just love that it’s kind of hectic, and that’s their crazy hectic life. And then I love seeing them rushing in the locker room, and Lucas [Niko Terho] is coming out of the shower, and the steam is coming out of there.

I loved the Teddy and Richard scenes in this episode.

I really just love working with Jim Pickens. He is such a special person, and really it’s just an honor to work with him. I feel like it’s so effortless. I feel like when we work together, it’s just pure joy and it’s like Teddy is always kind of hectic and running after him in the hall, and she’s trying to negotiate with him. When she gets that little moment of praise, I think that, especially with Teddy not having any family really anymore — except for her immediate family, but her past family — that moment where he kind of compliments her, and then she calls him on his little complimenting himself, I just love their banter back and forth. This episode is so well-written.

Will we get more of those two together?

I think so. Bailey and Richard are so experienced in that area, I think it’s a really lovely place for Teddy to go and kind of my mentorship. I feel like similar to the way I go to Debbie Allen — she was such an incredible mentor for me on this episode — that it’s just nice to have that.

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC