Miranda Bailey, you had us worried for a minute.
In last night’s stellar episode of Grey’s Anatomy, our favorite Chief of Surgery found herself on the receiving end of some subpar medical care at neighboring Seattle Presbyterian when she realized she was having a heart attack, but couldn’t convince any of the narrow-minded docs at the lesser hospital that she knew what she was talking about. The emotional hour put us through the wringer, shedding some light on Miranda’s upbringing and allowing the luminous Chandra Wilson to bask in the spotlight she so rightly deserved, but in the end, the fiercely devoted doc pulled through, coming to terms with hubby Ben Warren’s (Jason George, who has departed Grey’s as a series regular for the upcoming firefighter spinoff Station 19) career change in the process.
E! News sat down with Wilson to break down her standalone episode and she admitted that, while we all might’ve been biting our nails about her chances of survival, she never once entertained the thought that this might’ve been the end of the road for Miranda Bailey.
“I think I live too much in denial to be able to receive that Miranda might die,” Wilson told us with a laugh. “So I don’t think I allowed myself to go to that place.”
In fact, when the creative mind behind the emotional storyline came to Wilson with the idea, she admitted that she found it too powerful to turn down. “Elisabeth Finch, our writer of the episode, made such a great pitch to me about what it was going to be about. Basically she went scene by scene and let me know the whole arc of the story and it was beautiful,” the actress said. “I was looking forward to, right in that moment, shooting that episode because I wanted to hit all of those moments that she had just spelled out for me.”
Though the inspiration came, loosely, from Finch’s own experience being diagnosed with cancer, Wilson explained that the pitch was never meant to see Bailey stricken with that particular illness. “It was always going to be about heart disease and Bailey’s journey with that, but coupling that with [Finch’s] experiences in the emergency room, my experiences in the emergency room advocating for my daughter who’s a cyclic vomiting syndrome sufferer,” she told us. “If you’re in pain, trying to speak for yourself is really difficult to do. That’s why having an advocate with you is always so important and I think we wanted to kind of drive that point home because misdiagnoses will happen. Doctors are human beings, they’re not gods that we would like them to be.”
While Bailey already made it clear to Richard (James Pickens Jr.) that she has no intention of taking time off, lest her perceived weakness undermine her position of authority, Wilson told us that she’s looking forward to playing a Bailey who has been fundamentally changed. “As an actor, I love the fact that not only is obsessive compulsive disorder always kind of lying in the innards of what I do, but now I think, when you survive something like a heart attack and you go through heart surgery, you are forever changed in a way,” she said. “There is a heightened awareness of your body, a heightened awareness of when something’s off and I’m looking forward to exploring that all the time in Bailey’s own way.”
As for her post-op admission to Ben that she doesn’t want him to spend a day doing something that makes him unhappy, finally giving him her full blessing to pursue his new, dangerous career path, Wilson admitted that, despite Bailey’s drug haze in the moment, this new outlook on things will stick. To a point. “She 100 percent means that he shouldn’t waste a single day without being happy. None of us should because life is too short. She means that. But I can also see her side-eyeing everything that has anything to do with the fire department,” she said, laughing.
“She’s not going to go back on her word. That’s not the kind of woman that she is, but for him and for herself, it’s important to live your life and be happy in the life that you’re living.”
When it comes to how she’s dealing with losing George as a scene partner on Grey’s, Wilson was relatively zen about the whole thing, joking that it’s pretty much par for the course for the actor who plays her husband. “There are few ABC shows that Jason George hasn’t been on. Like I tell him all the time, you’re just doing what you do,” she said with a laugh. “But I’ve already had the opportunity to go over and have fun on Station 19, so you guys will get the chance to see that. Basically, we’re just kind of going back and forth as we expand the land.”
And if you’re still worried that the move might tear their marriage apart, don’t be. “It’s about being able to show that, look, this marriage is solid. It’s not great all the time, but it’s not going anywhere,” Wilson added. “So how do these characters ebb and flow [through] that? When I go to Station 19, it feels foreign, you know? So maybe I have to mark my territory a little bit. And then when he comes back over to Grey’s, that’s kind of like a comfort thing. It’s like coming back home.”
For more from Wilson, including which moment of the powerful episode always makes her choke up, as well as the joke that she and her co-stars have about being written off the show, be sure to check out the videos above!
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.