‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Giacomo Gianniotti on the ‘What If’ of Meredith & DeLuca

Giacomo Gianniotti Grey's Anatomy Andrew DeLuca
Q&A
ABC/Ron Tom

Grey’s Anatomy fans may have had to say goodbye to Dr. Andrew DeLuca in the spring premiere (he died while pursuing a sex trafficker), but the actor who plays him, Giacomo Gianniotti, has appeared since in some creative ways, including with a turn behind the camera as the April 8 episode’s director.

It’s “very much a true Grey’s Anatomy episode,” he tells TV Insider. So don’t expect any dreams or surreal twists (as we saw with Kim Raver’s Dr. Teddy Altman, which led to one of DeLuca’s post-death appearances). Still, “it came with its own challenges and, and roller coaster rides to manage.”

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Gianniotti opens up about DeLuca’s death, the “tragic” part of it that he feels isn’t talked about as much, directing, and more.

Just before DeLuca’s death, we get these great scenes between him and his sister Carina [Stefania Spampinato].

Giacomo Gianniotti: Having Stefania over the years on this show has been such an amazing experience. It rounded out DeLuca so much, his childhood, early life, backstory, and gave him opportunities to speak in Italian and flex that muscle. Some of my favorite scenes are with Stefania speaking in Italian either to hide what we’re saying to other people or arguing or whatever. She’s key to his backstory. Those scenes with Carina on the train and in pursuit of the trafficker where they dig into their childhoods also add depth to her character, [who’s still] on Station 19.

If DeLuca hadn’t died, could he and Meredith [Ellen Pompeo] have found their way back together?

I like to think so. When she says on the beach, “I’ll miss you,” I think that’s her saying just that what you said, which is, “I really had hope for a future for us, and I’m really going to mourn that if you don’t come back and I do.” I definitely think there was an opportunity for them to have deepened their love. At the end of the last season, DeLuca was going through so much personally, combating with accepting his diagnosis of bipolar and getting help and treatment. In this season, we see him doing all these amazing things: an attending, promoted, medicated, exercising, eating well, getting therapy and treatment.

Giacomo Gianniotti Grey's Anatomy Ellen Pompeo Meredith DeLuca

ABC

He’s really starting to thrive for maybe the first time in his life and in a state to try and rebuild a relationship that he had with Meredith. I think that’s a very tragic part of DeLuca’s death that is almost not talked about at all: There was an amazing side of DeLuca we could have seen, him [with a] love life. It was tragic that just as he was beginning to thrive, his life was taken.

We’ve seen DeLuca since his death.

That was fun. I remember [showrunner] Krista [Vernoff] saying, “just because we’re killing you off doesn’t mean that you’re not going to stick around.” I think I’m done for now. I think everyone has seen all that there will be of DeLuca — never say never, of course. Having the memorial video [include] his application to Grey Sloan as an intern was a cool Easter egg for the fans.

Then for the episode after, where Teddy has her mental breakdown and sees him in her visions and dreams was a cool way to see DeLuca because technically I was in a way playing a version of DeLuca, a figment of her imagination. I remember speaking extensively with Kevin McKidd, our director, about what that was like. She’s imagining all of this. And so the way he behaves, the way he speaks is different, like a ghost of Christmas past, guiding Teddy through her past and the decisions that she’s made and how they can affect her future.

Giacomo Gianniotti Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 9 Andrew DeLuca

ABC/Ron Batzdorff

We got to do really cool stuff that we don’t usually get to do on the show because it was so hyper-realistic. There were all these cool things we could do with lighting, with effects, with sound and music, and even performance.

You’re also back in the next episode, but as its director. Based on the promo, it looks like there’s quite a bit going on in and out of the hospital with the patients — and with Link [Chris Cormack] proposing to Amelia [Caterina Scorsone].

Link, now that it’s out in the promo, does get down on one knee to Amelia. You’re only seeing a snippet of the story, [but] you really know nothing about how it comes to be. We got some great medical cases inside the hospital. We have a couple coming from Station 19 [after] a car accident. It’s a nice balance between the character development of our doctors and some great medical cases.

The promo also shows Meredith waking up.

One of the biggest through-lines of this season has been the state of Meredith’s health and how up and down it’s all been. My episode is when she’s really starting to come out [of it], have consciousness, conversations, be sort of cognizant again. But it’s also touch-and-go [with] COVID: You can have an amazing day and then you can have a horrible day. So just because she’s waking up does not mean she’s completely out of the woods.

What was your prep work like as a director?

I lacked experience — I’ve directed short films and music videos. I’m very familiar with the camera and how it works, but I don’t have 30 years behind me of directing. [But] I was extremely prepared. I think I shocked a lot of people [with] how much. I know how fast we move. With COVID, we’re shooting in 10 hours instead of 12. A lot of things were going to be stacked against me, and I just wanted to make sure that I was out-performing and not getting into any sticky situations if emergencies arose.

At the same time, I wanted to have fun. I wanted to be loose and open enough that I could allow the actors and other crew members to also have their creative vision told. Ultimately this is a very collaborative medium, even though the director is at the top of the chain. I really encouraged that.

Giacomo Gianniotti Directing Grey's Anatomy Season 17

ABC/Raymond Liu

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC