'Grey's Anatomy': How the Firefighter Spinoff Came Together

The cast of the flagship series is expected to remain intact as the forthcoming spinoff is likely to feature new characters.
Courtesy of ABC/Richard Cartwright
Jason George in the 'Grey's Anatomy' season 13 finale

As Scandal heads into its seventh and final season in the fall, ABC is looking to creator Shonda Rhimes to find a replacement for the heart of its branded "Thank God It's Thursday" lineup.

The Disney-owned network used its May 16 upfront presentation to ad buyers to announce it was going straight-to-series with a spinoff of Rhimes' flagship Grey's Anatomy. The untitled firehouse-focused drama will, like Grey's, be set in Seattle and focus on a group of heroic firefighters — from the captain to the newest recruit — at home and at work. It is expected to air sometime during the 2017-18 season.

While it's still early in the process, none of the regulars from Grey's have been identified as candidates to move over to the spinoff, which sources say is expected to feature largely new characters. (This could seem to eliminate a theory that Grey's Jason George, whose character Ben went full firefighter mode in May's season 13 finale, would be a prime candidate to move to the spinoff.)

"The discussions have been going on for a while — earlier than this season. It was up to Shonda to tell us when she had inspiration for something that made sense, which was pretty recent," ABC Studios president Patrick Moran tells THR of how the spinoff came together."We talked about the elements of Grey's Anatomy that seem to resonate with the audience — emotional storytelling, deep human connection, a high-stakes environment and strong and empowered women — and those elements will carry over to the spinoff."

Rhimes and her Shondaland partner Betsy Beers will exec produce alongside Grey's Anatomy exec producer/co-showrunner Stacy McKee, the latter of whom who will transition to the spinoff full-time. To shore up the staff, Krista Vernoff recently rejoined Grey's as an exec producer after serving in the same role for its first eight seasons.

This marks the second spinoff to come from the Grey's. Kate Walsh's L.A.-set medical drama Private Practice ran for six seasons before wrapping in 2013. Along with Grey's and Scandal, Private ran for 100-plus episodes, with Rhimes ranking as the first and only woman to have accomplished the feat.

While the firefighter spinoff is the second Grey's off-shoot to move forward, Rhimes has had other ideas to build out the franchise. In 2013, Rhimes told THR that she mulled exploring Kevin McKidd's character Owen and his history in the military, as well as his PTSD. 

"Every once in a while, I come up with a crazy idea. When we did our war episode where we saw Owen's past and the history of his PTSD, I always thought that was an amazing world, with the idea of a MASH unit. There are a lot of different worlds for a spinoff," Rhimes said at the time.  

The prolific producer also scrapped an idea for a planned Scandal spinoff about Joe Morton's B613 storyline. 

Grey's, meanwhile, will return in the fall for its 14th season, as the Ellen Pompeo-starrer inches closer to tying ER as TV's longest-running medical drama. In its recently concluded 13th season, the series still ranked as a top 10 drama in the all-important 18-49 demo.