The Fire Next Time: Jason George On Launching 'Grey's Anatomy' Spinoff, 'Station 19'
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Interviews , Television

The Fire Next Time: Jason George On Launching 'Grey's Anatomy' Spinoff, 'Station 19'

Grey’s Anatomy’s Jason George was incredulous when he first heard the rumors floating around the set. His character Dr. Ben Warren, had just been at the center of a crucial story arc involving a conflagration that overtook fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital at the end of last season. He recalls, “I remember some folks coming up to me with a rumor that there was going to be a firefighter spinoff. “I was like ‘that’s hilarious. No, that’s definitely not gonna happen.’” Famous last words.

George was summering back in his hometown in Virginia splashing around the pool with his nephews and his kids when the truth came at him in such a way as to not be denied. He got a phone call from Shonda Rhimes’ assistant. Thus gently summoned to an impromptu phone meeting with Shonda Rhimes, she made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. “She was like, ‘Soooo do you wanna do a spinoff?’” Excited about the prospect almost from the start, George took only enough time to let his wife of eighteen years know about the fortunate turn of events before he returned to Shonda with an answer in the affirmative. The as yet untitled spinoff, about a group of Seattle firefighters, will debut March 22nd.

George elaborates a bit about what has already been foreshadowed on Grey’s Anatomy earlier this season. His wife on the show, Dr. Miranda Bailey, will not take news of his transition from a career as a surgeon to that of a firefighter with any fervor. In fact, it looks like we’re about to witness Warren and Miranda go through an epic crisis in their marriage. Says George, “Rocky is definitely an understatement.” That’s bad news for Ben and Miranda but it will deliver the delectable, pearl-clutching drama for which viewers tune into Grey’s Anatomy.  With much enthusiasm, George later goes on to say, “There is an episode of Grey’s coming up for which I want anyone who votes for awards anywhere, to remember Chandra Wilson when this episode airs, because the script murdered me and she slayed the thing. We had so much fun! It’s an episode that deals fundamentally with Bailey and where we start the firefighter show off.” George estimates that episode will air sometime in mid-to-late February, so fasten your seatbelts!

As a doctor, George’s character Ben’s unorthodox methods often meant that he came into conflict with the powers that be at Grey’s, including his wife who is the current Chief of Surgery. For George, these characteristics are actually a good thing for Ben’s new career as a firefighter. “Ben’s always been a great surgeon but he always got his hand slapped because he would do what he needed to do in the moment to save a life but that adrenaline was a problem in the OR.” Ben’s methods will be more of a benefit in the fast-paced world of firefighters. “The percentage change that you can make at the source will make a difference by the time they get to the hospital.” Further, his approach to his work is probably downright necessary as a firefighter. George explains that if his character, “Makes a mistake in the OR, his patient dies, if he makes a mistake in the field, his patient and his co-worker dies. And maybe he dies.”

Like most of Rhimes’ projects, the spinoff will be an ensemble show. Unlike her other vehicles though, many of the cast will already be familiar faces for TV fans at the show’s outset. The cast includes Jaina Lee Ortiz (Rosewood), Grey Damon (Aquarius, Friday Night Lights), Barrett Doss (Iron Fist), Miguel Sandoval (Medium), and Jay Hayden (The Catch, Seal Team). George describes the characters as a “Crazy, dysfunctional family. It’s a great crew of folks that I think viewers are going to fall in love with.” Ben Warren is used to bumping into crazy in the halls and on-call rooms of Grey’s so he will be well equipped with whatever he encounters at his new job.

It appears it will be Ortiz’ character Andy Herrera, who will act as Ben’s unofficial guide into his new career. “If I am the new guy learning everything the way the audience is gonna learn how to be a firefighter, I’m the intelligent but inexperienced guy coming in, she is the second generation firefighter. She is born into this.”  He also and subtly hints that because of the nature of their work (and it being Shondaland and all), sparks are likely to fly between some of the characters.

Although George informs us that the show will film in Los Angeles, the pilot was shot on location in Seattle, the setting for the series. He previously shot an episode of Grey’s Anatomy there a while back and loved it. “It was perfect.” He remembers, “It was gorgeous, sunny, breezy and absolutely perfect. I literally understood why anybody would move there in a heartbeat.”  The Emerald City was rocking a decidedly different vibe when he shot the pilot for the new series. “The rain was coming, it was literally a torrential downpour. We had to hold onto the tent that covered media village, which is where the director and producer sit to watch monitors because it looked like the wind was going to blow it away. Everybody from Seattle was actually apologizing to us.” He remembers with a chuckle.

Of course, after having been a part of Grey’s Anatomy for seven seasons, it isn’t the easiest thing to leave the crew he has grown to love. “I have the opportunity to be part of creating a Shonda Rhimes show from the ground up. To have such a phenomenal platform to spinoff Grey’s Anatomy is so exciting. It wasn’t until I shot my last episode as a regular on Grey’s Anatomy that it hit me. This is my last time that I can call this home. It’s always going to be home but it’s like when you go away to college, you come back and it’s familiar but it’s different and you’re onto this other thing now. I don’t see (the Grey’s Anatomy cast) every day and so I was a bit more emotional than I expected. Not seeing them on the regular is weird. That said, I’m enjoying the journey with the new crew of folks.”

Station 19 premieres March 22.