‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Star Debbie Allen Claims Season 17 ‘Couldn’t Be More Relevant’

The cast and crew of Grey’s Anatomy are officially back on set and shooting season 17 after a six-month break due to the pandemic. Star Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey) has dedicated the season to healthcare workers. Debbie Allen (Catherine Avery) says that the storylines this season “couldn’t be more relevant” and could include the Black Lives Matter movement.

Grey's Anatomy Debbie Allen
Debbie Allen on the set of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Mitch Haaseth via Getty Images

The pandemic ended ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ season 16 early

On Tuesday, September 8, Pompeo posted a selfie from the Grey’s Anatomy set along with co-star Richard Flood (Cormac Hayes). They were both wearing N95 surgical masks and their signature Grey Sloan Memorial navy work clothes. In the caption, she wrote, “First time back in my scrubs.”

According to ABC News, Grey’s Anatomy shut down production on season 16 in mid-March. Pompeo shared with her fans that since filming stopped, 7000 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19.

“I dedicate my season 17 to all who have fallen and to everyone of you who by the grace of God is still standing,” Pompeo wrote. “This season is for you with humility and a bit of humor to get us through and endless amounts of gratitude.”

Grey’s Anatomy will address the ongoing pandemic this season. Pompeo told her real life counterparts, “I hope we do you proud.”

Showrunner Krista Vernoff says ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ shutdown forced her to ‘pivot’

Even though they missed out on filming the final episodes of season 16, showrunner Krista Vernoff says she didn’t completely scrap the plans she had. Some ideas did make their way into Grey’s Anatomy season 17.

“In even the best of times, a television writer’s primary job is to know how to pivot,” Vernoff told TVLine. “We are not working to protect stories we had [planned] for the end of season 16. That said, you will get to see some of the immediate moments from where we left off.”

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Vernoff explained that they shot “great material” that they didn’t get the chance to air. Instead of losing that footage, she says they found a way to “build it into our premiere.” As for how they will handle COVID-19 in the medical drama, she admits it is a “whole new world.” Not just for Grey Sloan Memorial, but for all of the characters.

Debbie Allen season 17 ‘couldn’t be more relevant’

Allen admits that the unexpected shut down forced the story in season 16 to “jump off a cliff” and suddenly end. She says that where they stopped in the finale is where fans will find the characters in the season 17 premiere.

She told Access Hollywood that the pandemic has forced people to rethink animosity in their relationships. The same goes for the characters in Grey’s Anatomy. When it comes to Catherine’s relationship with Richard (James Pickens Jr.), Allen explained that the pandemic changes things. Things that they were fighting about before might not seem so important now.

Allen said there’s a lot of drama and a lot going on and, “The fans will not be disappointed.” In addition to COVID-19, Allen says that it’s “very possible” they will address Black Lives Matter because they are dealing with reality.

ABC has not announced a premiere date for season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy.