Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Camilla Luddington Says Her First Scene With Ellen Pompeo Was ‘Legitimately Terrible’

ABC’s hit show Grey’s Anatomy just aired their Season 16 finale last night, a bit ahead of schedule due to the coronavirus crisis. The character of Dr. Jo Karev, portrayed by Camilla Luddington, has been through a roller coaster of a season with her longtime love Dr. Alex Karev (played by Justin Chambers) leaving her for his former flame Izzie Stevens.

Luddington has become a fan favorite since she started on the medical drama in 2009. The British actress almost missed out on landing the role due to a scheduling conflict, and then had her first scene cut from the show.

Camilla Luddington of “Grey’s Anatomy” | Gilles Mingasson/ABC via Getty Images

Camilla was busy being Croft

The Grey’s star already had an acting gig voicing the character of Lara Croft for the legendary video game Tomb Raider before the iconic ABC show came calling.

“When I got the call that I had gotten Tomb Raider, I literally screamed,” Luddington told POPSUGAR. I was so excited, because growing up, she was really the only iconic female lead in a video game that I knew of.” 

Luddington had already met show creator Shonda Rhimes for a different show the media mogul had been working on when she got the opportunity to audition for Grey’s, but had a scheduling conflict due to her Lara Croft role.

“Shonda had a pilot called Gilded Lilys that I tested for, so I knew Shonda a few months before,” the actress explained, according to TVLine. “When I went in [for Grey’s], I actually missed the auditions because I was at Comic-Con for Tomb Raider. I heard that Shonda had wanted me to come in, but I couldn’t make it.”

Lucky for Luddington, the show’s casting directors initially came up empty. “That Monday, they said they still hadn’t found anybody,” the Grey’s actress said, sharing that she was then given the chance to try out for the part.

Auditioning for Jo Wilson

Luddington revealed that her hiring process for the medical drama was exceptionally fast. “I went in, and my first scene was kind of flirty,” she shared. “My second scene was me just blabbering a lot of medical dialogue. I probably heard two days later that I got the role.”

The character of Jo Wilson was introduced as an intern with a tough background, growing up in foster homes and sometimes being homeless having to scavenge for food. Though Luddington completely embraced the role, she didn’t know much about the young doctor she’d be playing before she began on the show.

“They had told me they were going to write our stories just off our personalities, so I guess I come across as a garbage eater or something,” she said with a laugh, referring to her character’s street smarts. “They had decided after they cast me that I would be Karev’s new love interest. It was interesting. I had never been cast that way before.”

Jo jumbles the jargon

The England-born actress revealed that she had very little time to prepare for her first scene on the show.

“I got the script the night before,” Luddington said. “I remember having a slight meltdown because they wouldn’t give me my script unless I’d signed my contract. I got it at maybe 8pm that night.”

While she is now clearly an expert on the medical terminology bandied about on Grey’s, Luddington admitted that she initially jumbled the complex jargon during her first scene with the show’s star, Ellen Pompeo, who plays Dr. Meredith Grey.

“I had a whole monologue of just medical dialogue that I had to say to Meredith without her saying anything to me and I was just legitimately terrible,” Luddington recalled in a 2016 interview with BUILD. “I was so nervous cuz I was such a fan of the show too I could not remember the lines.”

Though she regrets her initial stab at the laborious lingo, Luddington shared that fans never saw that particular performance. “They actually cut the scene, by the way, but I thought they were just going to cut my role by the end of the day,” she said. “I was like, ‘well, that’s been nice.'”

Show runners obviously kept the actress in the cast and Luddington is now a central character on the iconic show where she belts out the medical banter like a real doc!