‘Grey’s Anatomy’: James Pickens Talks Richard Webber’s Diagnosis and If There Is a Future for Richard and Catherine

Though last night’s finale of Grey’s Anatomy wasn’t supposed to be the actual ending to Season 16, it gave us the same gut punches as any other finale would have. One of the main focuses of the finale was Richard Webber’s diagnosis and how it affected those around him. Now, James Pickens is opening up about Webber’s diagnosis and the future of Webber and his wife, Catherine Fox.

Grey's Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy | Christopher Willard via Getty Images

What happened with Richard? (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Leading up to the finale, Webber had been having hand tremors, hallucinating, experiencing mood swings, and forgetting the people around him. When the finale opened, the doctors were working day and night to figure out what was wrong with Webber. At first, they settled on Alzheimer’s and Fox was planning on taking him home. But upon discovering that Webber had numbness in his hands and feet, they decided to do a biopsy. Before the biopsy began, Andrew DeLuca realized that Webber had had a cobalt hip replacement years before and that cobalt poisoning would explain all of Webber’s symptoms.

The hip replacement was then removed and Webber seemed to wake up as his normal self. Unfortunately for Fox, that meant that he remembered that they were on bad terms and kicked her out of the hospital room.

James thought ‘Grey’s’ was going to kill Richard off

Grey’s showrunner Krista Vernoff approached Pickens about the cobalt poisoning before putting it in the script.

“Early on in the season, I sat down with Krista and the other writers and they pitched this idea that they had about him and this medical condition,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Over 16 seasons I’ve had a brain aneurysm, I’ve been electrocuted… I’m the doctor with nine lives here. They pitched this idea about cobalt poisoning. I said, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting.’ I knew nothing about this condition and from what I understand it’s common with that particular kind of metal. I was thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Is this it? This is the end…,’ kind of thing. But they assured me, ‘You’re going to be fine, but we think it’d be a great storyline.'”

Will Webber and Catherine ever get back together?

Webber and Fox didn’t end the season on good terms but there is a chance for reconciliation.

“It’s going to be interesting to see,” Pickens said of how the relationship turns out. “To be honest with you I don’t know yet, but I’m quite sure Krista and [the writers] have something up their sleeve in terms of that. But yes, obviously Richard feels betrayed by his wife, the fact that she fired him and then he goes over to establish the new hospital and then she, being vindictive, winds up buying the new hospital and then there he is.”

As far as what it would take for Webber to forgive Fox, Pickens isn’t sure.

“I really don’t even have an idea yet,” he said when asked. “I’m quite sure when we do come back in front of the cameras, Krista and the writing staff is going to have an idea of how they’re going to get us back. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be exciting and I think fans are really going to get a kick out of it.”