×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Boss on ‘Tough’ Casting Decisions, Bringing Comedy Back and What’s Ahead for Season 15

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, speaks with “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner Krista Vernoff, which returned for its 15th season on Thursday.

Listen to this week’s podcast for free below and at Apple Podcasts:

Vernoff had been in the writers’ room for the show’s first seven seasons, then returned last season as showrunner. In taking the reins, she says she wanted to bring some of the “comic teeth” she sharpened during her time on “Shameless” back to “Grey’s.” “The show had become a much darker, much more serious drama,” she says. “Now it’s time to bring the light back in. The government’s gone dark, people need some relief. So I came in to bring joy and comedy and light.”

She also had to make some “complicated and tough” decisions, including letting go two series stars, Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew. “We had 14 series regulars, and that is an unmanageable number of series regulars to write stories for,” she says. “Nothing has time to land. It wasn’t manageable.”

The move sparked a backlash on Twitter, which Vernoff admits hit her hard, as she took it really personally. But then she talked to executive producer John Wells (“Shameless”), who she credits as a mentor, as well as Shonda Rhimes, both of whom advised her to stay off Twitter so she could “stay sane.” “Social media can really be a catch-22 because you want to engage with fans. You want them to support the show. You want to drive the conversation,” she says. “But it’s also very hard to live in that space when that the negativity starts coming back at you. I love the fans … and I do like to engage with them. I think it’s one of the joys.”

“None of this was easy, but I believe that it is right and I have to stand in the middle of the storm,” she says.

Vernoff, who is also directing “Grey’s” for the first time this season, says executive producer-director Debbie Allen pushed her to take her turn behind the camera. “I have a theory that part of why she wanted me to direct was to make me a little bit more of a director-friendly showrunner,” says Vernoff. “‘You have a lot of opinions there in the village. Why don’t you get in the chair and see what it’s like?'”

The cast has enjoyed watching her try her hand at a different set of skills on the set, she says. “They seem to be all greatly entertained and delighted. It’s playful,” she says. “They’re giving me s— in there, but mostly they’ve been really supportive.”

This season, she promises, will be more of a romantic comedy, as Meredith finds a new boyfriend, Karev becomes the new interim chief of surgery, the love triangle between Owen, Amelia, and Teddy gets more complicated, and a love story with the show’s first openly gay male surgeon, Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi), is introduced. “It’s sexy. It’s funny. It’s moving. It’s deep. It’s playful,” she says. “And I’m going to say delightful.”

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

More TV

  • Pete Davidson Sits Out Final 'Saturday

    Pete Davidson Sits Out Final 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches of 2018

    Just hours after “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson posted a message on social media that said he “really [didn’t] want to be on this Earth anymore,” he was absent from the final 2018 live sketches of the late-night sketch comedy show. But although Davidson did not take part in the sketches or appear [...]

  • Pete Davidson photographed by Peggy Sirota

    Pete Davidson Posts Unsettling Message, Deletes Instagram

    UPDATED: “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson posted a disturbing message Saturday morning stating he doesn’t “want to be on this earth anymore,” then deleted his Instagram account. In the post, Davidson wrote, “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all [...]

  • Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor

    Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor Arrested for Plotting Sex With Minor

    Disney Channel has severed ties with “Andi Mack” actor Stoney Westmoreland following his arrest for allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old. “Stoney Westmoreland, an actor working on the series ‘Andi Mack,’ was arrested in Salt Lake City today,” a Disney Channel spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Given the nature of [...]

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content