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'Grey's Anatomy' Bringing Kate Burton Back

The three-time Emmy nominee will return to reprise her role as Ellis Grey in the season 11 premiere.

Kate Burton Grey's Anatomy Episodic - H 2014
ABC/VIVIAN ZINK
Kate Burton as Ellis Grey

Kate Burton is returning to Grey Sloan Memorial.

The actress has been tapped to reprise her role as Meredith's (Ellen Pompeo) mother, Ellis Grey, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Burton — who earned two guest actress in a drama Emmy nominations for the role — will return in the season 11 premiere when the character will appear in flashbacks. This marks Burton's 17th appearance on Grey's and latest visit to Shondaland following her role as vice president Sally Langston on ABC's Scandal. (Burton is also nominated for her guest role in the Shonda Rhimes political drama at this month's Emmys.)

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Burton's return comes after Grey's Anatomy revealed in its 10th season finale that Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and Ellis had a love child — Margaret Pierce (played by guest star Kelly McCreary). Margaret arrived at Grey Sloan as a potential replacement for Cristina (Sandra Oh), who moved to Zurich, telling Richard — who she doesn't know is her father — that she was adopted and came to the hospital because her mother's name is on the building.

Rhimes told THR in June that there was a chance that Burton — or Sarah Paulson, who also played Ellis in flashbacks — could return this season. "I did my research over the past 200-plus episodes of Grey's. Sarah Paulson and Kate Burton both played Ellis in the same time period. When Meredith was on the carousel, that was played by Kate Burton. But when Ellis was in the hospital dealing with the AIDS patient with Richard, that was Sarah Paulson. It was the exact same time period, maybe months apart, somehow played by two different actresses. So I don't know if it's going to be Sarah Paulson or Kate Burton. We'll figure it out."

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Rhimes noted that Oh's exit helped open up a new avenue for storytelling, noting that the season 10 finale was the right moment to bring in Ellis Grey's other daughter. "We've known the Maggie storyline since season four — basically since the beginning of the show. I knew the Richard-Ellis love child was a storyline since I planned the pilot. I was like, 'At some point, we're going to have the Richard-Ellis love child.' In season four, we started talking about whether we'd do it next season. Every year it was, 'Next season? It's not right yet.' We did Lexie (Chyler Leigh) in season three. When we did Lexie, we talked about it; we thought it had to be the Thatcher (Jeff Perry) children first. Then we got to the moment where maybe it's now and it was too soon after Lexie. We kept thinking about it and it never felt right. It wasn't until I walked into the writers room literally like a month before we started planning the [season 10] finale and I was like, 'I think it's time for Maggie to show up.' It was just the right moment. All of those moments have been seeded in. The dialogue of Ellis' love child is all planted in the show. It's not something that we have to backdate and go back and find. We've known about it all along."

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As for Burton's time on Scandal, it's unclear if she'll return to the Kerry Washington starrer after Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) was re-elected to a second term, defeating Sally, who ran as an independent.

Grey's Anatomy returns on Thursday, Sept. 25, on ABC in its new time slot at 8 p.m.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit