Over the course of braving multiple transitions, one of the things ‘Grey’s Anatomy‘ has gotten tremendously right was the casting of Jessica Capshaw as Dr. Arizona Robbins. This pedes specialist quite simply makes us smile with every word she says, every anecdote she shares, and most of all the way she has grounded the once adrift Dr. Callie Torres by way of one of the ABC drama’s steadiest romances to date.
Fancast so welcomed the chance to speak with Capshaw, who’s expecting her second child this fall, about her ‘Grey’s’ gig that we’re presenting our Q&A in two parts. Here to start things off, the sunny, easy-to-laugh actress hints at what’s next for “Calzona,” shares how the intense season finale gave her unborn baby a jolt, and reveals what she loves most about playing doctor.
I am most excited to talk to you. When last I spoke with Shonda Rhimes, I began singing your praises and she all but interrupted me to agree that you are “amazing.”
[Laughs] You know what, I adore her. I certainly came into the party later than everyone else, and I have a great relationship with her. I really like her and respect her. I think it’s pretty amazing what she does. I think about being a parent and running what she runs…. It’s insane, she just does so much.
You’re two days into shooting the new season (premiering September 23). How’s it looking so far?
It’s looking great. I’ve had people coming up to me for three months commenting on that season finale. [Laughs] People were a good kind of traumatized by it. It inspired and excited and revved them up!
Arizona and Callie (played by Sara Ramirez) must have a bit of almost “survivor’s guilt,” since they got off easy compared to most everyone else.
I know! It was such an experience…. At the table read for the first part of the season finale, I was worried for my unborn child, my blood pressure was so through the roof. Every time the gunman would come around the corner, we’d just be terrified! It wasn’t until the second part that he came into peds, and literally, when they got to the stage direction where he appears in the door, I screamed. Screamed, screamed, screamed – a lot. It was very well mapped out, and it amply terrified everyone. There was so much more, Shonda probably could have made that a four-hour finale. But yeah, we kinda got off easy.
Does the new season pick up soon after those events, or have months and months passed?
It’s pretty soon after those events, and we’re dealing with what has just happened, putting the pieces back together again. Shonda so famously said it was a “game changer,” and it’s hard to live up to that, but it really was a game changer. Now you’ll see how the game has changed for all the different personalities. There were a lot of “Come to Jesus” moments that each character had in some way, and now we’ll look at what those declarations made in the moment will mean for the future – whether people live up to them, or don’t.
Let’s talk about Arizona’s turnabout: Were you surprised by her original stance on not wanting to have kids?
I was surprised because everyone was surprised. But I actually had the personal experience of having a friend who is married to a pediatric neurosurgeon, and I was able to glean from him the perspective that when your day, for years and years, is comprised of saving children’s lives, you know every single thing that can go wrong…. And even though though [Arizona] said it has nothing to do with her brother having died, I think there’s some of that in there. Someone once said to me, “To have a child is to understand what it’s like to have your heart walk around outside your body.” Why would you want to love something more than anything else in the whole world if you knew all the things that can go wrong? So I understood it. Also, I was talking to one of the writers and she said – and I think it’s so true – that Arizona needed some dirtying up. She was so perfect. She would be like, “I’m not having kids, I’m not relenting,” which doesn’t sound great, when the fact is that straight or gay, we expect women to have kids. So it was interesting to hear her reason for not wanting to have that. And Callie wasn’t that nice about her pushback – “Well, I do.” I’m sure [that debate] will continue to go on, especially with the bloggers – Team Arizona versus Team Callie.
What do you love most about Arizona?
I love what I feel like I learn from her, which is that you can be plucky and funny and nice and sweet and humorous and outrageous and overenthusiastic – all positive traits – while having an opinion and saying no. In my life having a different viewpoint has been seen as a negative thing, so I feel like I’ve learned that you can be who you are and say no. It’s like, “Yeah, she needs to be dirtied up,” but at the same time she’s kind of dirty in a perfect way. She’s never sweet for sweet’s sake and she’s never compromising.
Do you have a favorite quote or monologue of hers?
Last year’s “I’m a good man in a storm” was pretty great, when Arizona was talking to Callie’s father (Hector Elizondo). Watch that scene here:
But I also love where I was talking to Karev (played by Justin Chambers) about not judging parents – that you you can help people but until you’ve had a screaming infant or a lying teenager, you don’t get to judge. Also, there was one from like my second or third episode, when I knew nothing about her on a personal note – as a matter of fact that’s when Justin and I totally thought [our characters] were going to end up being an item. [Laughs] I was on the plane with him coming back from getting an organ and I’m talking about Valentine’s Day coming up and he’s like,” What the f— are you talking about? We just took an organ out of a small child.” And I say – it’s the whole “rainbows and crap” speech – “You don’t think I know what we just did? I see those coffins all the time. In my sleep. But you have to look forward to the next kid so that you can do your job.” (Watch that one on YouTube.)
She’s very good at compartmentalizing.
Yeah, and when you push her and say, “Don’t you have a heart?” she’s very quick to let you know exectly why she is the way she is and you should back the f— up!
Coming soon in Part 2 of our Q&A: Jessica Capshaw delves deeper into her complicated ‘Grey’s’ romance and Calzona’s babymaking plans. Plus: Where does Arizona rank on her list of roles played to date?