‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Plans to Begin Season 17 Production Soon With Coronavirus Changes

Ellen Pompeo Grey's Anatomy Meredith Grey Mask
ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Grey’s Anatomy may soon join the list of TV shows getting back to work.

“The plan is to start in a few weeks but don’t have an exact start date but [executive producer and director Debbie Allen] is prepping!” Ellen Pompeo, who stars as Dr. Meredith Grey, shared on Twitter Wednesday. The star also teased that what fans will see with her character in Season 17 is “going to be so worth the wait.”

When Grey’s does get back to work, it will be on a season that includes a coronavirus storyline. Previously, showrunner Krista Vernoff said they had “an opportunity and a responsibility to tell” the stories of the heroes on the frontlines of the pandemic. But as she told The Hollywood Reporter, she originally hadn’t been planning to incorporate the real-world pandemic into the show.

“It was really about fatigue,” she explained, noting she had spent time watching things that made her laugh and feel better about the world. However, the Grey’s writers, especially “Team Medical’s” Zoanne Clack, Naser Alazari, and Michael Metzner, convinced her otherwise.

After that, they began discussing “how do we tell this painful, brutal story that has hit our medical community so intensely and as they keep saying permanently changed medicine and create some escapism … and romance and comedy and joy and fun,” Vernoff said. How much the coronavirus is a factor in the story will depend on the episode, and there are also stories to tell about those quarantining away from the hospital and not going home to their families and people possibly not seeking help for other medical problems because they’re afraid to go to the doctor and hospital.

The showrunner also noted that they’re “lucky as a medical show that we can have our actors, extras, and guest stars in masks so much of the time … because you can’t be in a hospital without a mask.” That’ll allow them to start production “safely” before other shows. (Filming is slowly beginning on new seasons of shows, with actors removing masks before going on-camera, as seen in behind-the-scenes videos and photos from S.W.A.T.‘s set.)

The romance of the show will be affected, and they will have to get creative, but as she pointed out, “there’s been a lot of sex on Grey’s Anatomy that doesn’t involve kissing. There’s a lot of sexy lifting of clothes and pulling down of clothes and taking off of things and standing behind a person in a sexy way.” That’ll have to remain the case going forward.

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 17, Fall 2020, ABC