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MAY
8
1 years

'Grey's Anatomy's' Hilarie Burton on Lauren and Arizona's Growing Flirtation

"Threats exist everywhere and Arizona has some big choices to make," the actress behind new doc Lauren tells THR.

Hilarie Burton and Jessica Capshaw Grey's Anatomy - H 2013
ABC
"Grey's Anatomy's" Hilarie Burton and Jessica Capshaw

Grey's Anatomy guest star Hilarie Burton knows fans are none too pleased with her new doc on the block, Lauren. The White Collar actress who checked in to the ABC medical drama has not been subtle about her attraction (and almost infatuation) with Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), despite warnings from her Grey Sloan counterpart that she's a married woman.

"My friends from high school and relatives are shocked, which is fun. I like getting text messages from people I haven't talked to in a while -- they're upset that I'm disrupting things [between Callie and Arizona]," Burton tells The Hollywood Reporter.

So will the flirtation between the craniofacial pro and Grey's Anatomy's resident wheelie doc continue? How worried should Callie and Arizona be? THR caught up with Burton to get the scoop on this and what's ahead in the final two episodes of season nine as a super storm heads for Seattle.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Showrunner Shonda Rhimes told THR that things between Lauren and Arizona will go "very, very far." How worried should viewers be about Arizona cheating on Callie?
Hilarie Burton: I can't give anything away but it's just a truth that there are always threats out there to families and those threats can be really kind people, really good-looking people, really fun people who you get along with really well. Threats exist everywhere and Arizona has some big choices to make and my goal going in is to facilitate her character's choices. Jessica was wonderful to me and took me under her "doctor" wing and showed me the ropes. I hope that chemistry that we created as friends off-screen comes through as well.

THR: Looking at the choices Arizona has, is this a story about her regaining control over her life after rushing her recovery from the plane crash and perhaps feeling something for herself again? 
Burton: The story is about being human. We're faced every day with really difficult decisions; the impulsive things that feel good or the noble choices that might leave us frustrated and feel like we're lacking but are the right thing to do. Finding the balance between those two things is an ongoing battle that everyone faces. It's not just doctors on TV, which is why viewers relate so much to these characters because these are things that everybody goes up against. I want to come in and be likable because that's what makes Arizona's struggle interesting.

THR: Why would Lauren go after a married woman?
Burton: That's a great question! As someone in a committed relationship, it's hard as an actor to justify those actions but those people are certainly out there and you have to learn how to navigate around them or avoid them. I tried to separate myself from my character's choices because they are morally gray.

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THR: Will we get into any of Lauren's back story to explain who she is?
Burton: They worked with the same professor and it's one more thing that they have in common -- they've traveled similar education and background paths, which make the rapport between them so easy. Lauren is there to do her job and if there's something pretty and distracting that happens to be hanging out while she's in the middle of doing this job then she's a wild woman and she's interested and game.

THR: How will we see Lauren continue to pursue Arizona?
Burton: I am in the last two episodes, that as much an I can tell you (laughs).

THR: Lauren did her homework on Arizona — will we find out why?
Burton: Isn't Googling someone the first thing everyone does?! They meet someone new and Google them! In the world of Facebook and Twitter, you can treasure hunt for tidbits about somebody that you find interesting and pretty much find out everything you need to know -- which is why I stay away from social media, I'm terrified of it (laughs). That cyber footprint Arizona has left has made her even more enticing to Lauren because she's overcome so much and she's such a vibrant woman.

THR: Lauren is coming between a very important couple not only on the show but also to the LGBT community.
Burton: Callie and Arizona feel like a safe relationship that is wholesome; don't think that it didn't worry me about what people would think of my character trying to break that up. It's really important to have positive relationships portrayed for every lifestyle to look to and say, "That's me." It would do a disservice to any community to present everything as all rainbows and sunshine. There's always threats to family and you have to fight for what's yours.

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THR: Will Lauren have any friction with Callie? 
Burton: There were some big days at Grey's that we worked, and Sara was wonderful. It would be too easy if there were friction. If this was someone who was the antithesis of Callie, that would make it really easy for people to hate Lauren and pick sides. But it's when you walk that line -- Callie and Lauren in the first episode, there's nothing wrong there and they have a nice chat about the surgery. That's where it gets interesting to watch because there is no right or wrong; Callie could just have easily strike up flirtation with Lauren. It's those messy lines that make TV fun.

THR: The super storm is coming, how will that impact Lauren and Arizona's surgery? 
Burton: In any kind of a stressful situation, it either forces people to bond or it makes people butt heads. Everybody is locked in [to the hospital] so there's no escape from everything that is happening during this tornado of a hospital. Those close quarters certainly play a part in the last two episodes.

THR: Rhimes mentioned there would be an "emotional death" (in the figurative sense) in the finale. Might that be the death of Arizona and Callie as a couple?
Burton: I don't know, I'm just the interloper and new kid in the relationship! (Laughs.)

What do you think will happen between Arizona and Lauren? What do you think of the story line so far? Hit the comments below. Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit