After nine seasons on “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jason George might have seen his fill of the intense life-and-death dramas at Grey Sloan Memorial and his character Ben Warren’s regular rollercoaster ride of a relationship with Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson). But instead, he’s turning up the heat – literally, as both actor and role are heading to a Shonda Rhimes-produced spinoff set in a Seattle firehouse.
The as-yet-untitled, still-unscheduled ten-episode offshoot – the second “Grey’s” spinoff, in the wake of “Private Practice” – is already shooting, and here, George talks with Variety about eagerly diving into the demanding new environment, which finds Ben shifting careers to find even more action fighting fires – and possibly even more friction in Ben’s often fiery romance with his wife.
Shonda has sprinkled a little fairy dust on your character and you’re going through this development process of a whole brand new series. What has that experience has been like for you?
It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve always been like the Energizer bunny. I can just keep going for days and days, but I realized there is a wall. I’m tired, but I’m ecstatic. So I just go to bed and wake up the next day excited because every actor is always looking for new challenges. What I love about playing Ben is that Ben’s always looking for new challenges. He was an anesthesiologist, became a surgeon, and now he’s a surgeon who’s looking for new challenges. He applied to the firefighting academy.
Describe the premise of this new show in as many details as you can, as well as why you’re creatively excited for it.
I love testing the Ben and Bailey relationship, so we’ll see if it breaks, if this is the straw that breaks that back. I love the fact that Ben was definitely afraid of fire, but ran into a fire to save a friend. It says a lot about who he is at the core of his being. I want to learn more about me as a person, I want to learn more about what it is to charge into things that scare the hell out of you. I think the fun thing about firefight spinoff is that firefighters are on for 24-hour shifts and they become like a family. They eat together, they’re sleeping there – it’s like the “Grey’s” family, except for when the “Grey’s” family makes mistakes, a patient dies. When these guys make mistakes your partner dies, your friend dies, your lover, whatever, dies. That’s an interesting new level and new twist to the work-family kind of
What have you learned from the real firefighters? Have they told you something crucial that unlocked what that experience is like for you?
It’s fun being around these guys because they’re men — they’re guys — but you see how emotional they can get if they couldn’t get there for somebody, and how much it means to them. That, to me, is a really incredible, powerful thing. It speaks volumes.
Have you started spending time and doing the training regimen with your co-stars?
Oh yeah. We’ve been training and we’ve been shooting. I was out with two of the guys last night, hanging out. They’re a fantastic cast I think people are going to fall in love with. Jaina Ortiz is a blast. We got Oak [Onaodowan] from “Hamilton.” For any of the “Hamilton” fans out there – he was Hercules Mulligan and Madison in that. You’ll
recognize Jay Hayden from “The Catch.” The cast is a pretty spectacular group of people. We got Paris Barclay who’s directing it – the former president of the DGA, so the bona fides are there! There’s [showrunner] Stacy McKee, who wrote “Grey” for several seasons, and has been around from “Grey” since Season One. If you love “Grey’s,” you will dig the spinoff.