'Grey's Anatomy': Why Jo Can't Tell Alex the Truth About Her Mother

Ileane Rudolph
Preview ABC/Eric McCandless

In a show that traffics in pain and devastation, Camilla Luddington's latest Grey's Anatomy storyline is particularly moving.

Her character, Jo Karev, conquered poverty as a foster child, homelessness, then a violent first husband, to become a surgeon and marry her colleague, Alex Karev (Justin Chambers).

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But recently, after locating her birth mom and learning she'd been raped as a teen, "Jo is having trouble keeping her head above water," Luddington says.  

In an early scenario, Jo met her birth family, Luddington reveals, but after last fall's Christine Blasey Ford/Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the actress pitched an idea "about making Jo the product of rape and doing the episode about consent."

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

That led to a powerful scene in which a terrified rape survivor was wheeled through a hospital corridor lined with supportive women — many of them Grey's staffers. "Everyone wanted to be a part of it," says Luddington. 

Jo's own journey resulted in a gut-punch encounter with her mother (Michelle Forbes), now happily married with kids, who told her that developing a relationship would be too painful. "I don't think Jo will connect with her again," Luddington says. "Now it's up to her to find closure [on her own]." 

So far, she's not coping well at all and was last seen coming to work drunk, then getting into a fight with Alex.

Thursday, in an episode that also crosses over to Station 19 at 9/8c, her relationship continues to be at a standstill.

(ABC/Eric McCandless)

"She's in so much pain that she can't tell the person she loves the most the hurtful truth [about her mother]," Luddington says. "We are telling a story of the repercussions of trauma and how you can survive it."

Grey's Anatomy, Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC