'Grey's Anatomy's' Kevin McKidd on Hope for Cristina and Owen: 'They're Still Destined to be Together'

The actor tells THR that he'll bury himself in work while Cristina handles her PTSD from afar.
"Grey's Anatomy's" Kevin McKidd

When Grey's Anatomy returns for its ninth season Thursday, Seattle Grace will have a very different vibe to it. While Owen is still the chief, to say the hospital's ranks have taken a hit would be an understatement. Lexie (sniff!) didn't survive the plane crash and last viewers saw, Mark and Arizona were both in pretty rough shape. Plus Cristina, despite reconciling with her cheating husband in the penultimate episode of season eight, vowed that she wouldn't be returning to the hospital.

 The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kevin McKidd to get the scoop on where the beloved couple are heading into the ninth season and how Owen will handle the distance between the couple as well as what new challenges he'll face as chief (hint: an angry Meredith).

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The Hollywood Reporter: What's the journey like for Cristina (Sandra Oh) and Owen this season?
Kevin McKidd:It's complicated. They went through a lot last season and all the issues that they have are still very much in the air and unresolved. It's hard for them to find a path back. However, I think they might. We're not really there yet as far as what we've shot but there's still hope for them. They're still destined to be together. They're a complicated couple and their issues remain even after the plane crash. It's going to be challenging to say the least.

Showrunner Shonda Rhimes has called this the season of romance. How will that affect Owen?
Owen's very focused in the hospital and on being chief. The aftermath of the crash and helping people rehabilitate. The first half of the season certainly feels like he's all business. Whether that will come later in the season, I'm sure it will and I hope it does because Owen needs a bit of romance; he's gone through a dark time.

With Cristina and Owen being physically separated, might we see him move on with other women?
I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. They're very much separated, but that hasn't happened yet and we're through episode seven.

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How will Owen as the chief handle all of his doctors being involved in the plane crash?
The whole hospital is really affected by Lexie's (Chyler Leigh) death. Owen is no stranger to trauma, having spent all that time in Iraq. He can use that and help people through and be understanding with what their psychological struggle is, which is very important.

Might Owen have to pay a price for his role in putting the hospital's best and brightest all on the same flight?
We don't know that yet. It'll definitely be interesting and it will shed a lot of light on what happened in those minutes and hours right after the crash. The second episode is a flashback to the crash and it's an fascinating way to jump back and forth in time in episodes one and two.

Could Owen, who has struggled with PTSD in the past, help Cristina deal with the same in the wake of the crash?
They're very much estranged in the first two episodes, so he doesn't get the opportunity to do that. 

The crash fundamentally affects everyone. What are the big issues facing Owen and Cristina in the wake of the crash?
Sometimes these kinds of events can clear the decks, but sometimes they make things more complicated and less resolvable. There's this even bigger distance between them and Cristina is going through something psychological and of course there was a distance between them anyway and that just widens between them in the first two episodes.

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How will Owen struggle with that distance?
This is the love of his life, but being a guy he tries to bury his head in work and do what he can do to the best of his abilities and not talk about it. He doesn't seek out a shoulder to cry on, which is the typical Owen move. He'll stew in it for a while. He's a pretty standard guy in that sense that he keeps things close to his chest.

We've heard that Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) will turn into almost a Bailey 2.0 and turn into a tough doctor in the wake of the crash. How will Owen handle her altered personality?
In the first few episodes, they don't have much interaction. They don't really cross paths that much. But Owen is keeping an eye on her. Meredith shuts down and that's her way of coping with life and death and she does harden herself in a way, which actually makes her very affective yet formidable teacher. All these doctors who were residents are now attendings and there's a responsibility on them that wasn't there before. It's interesting to see how they cope with the that and the stress of the aftermath of the crash.

Will you be directing again this season?
I hope so, I love getting to direct, it's a wonderful opportunity. Each time I do it, I'm getting better at it. It's quite addicting to direct. I hope to and we'll see what comes in the back-nine. It takes a lot of logistical production and organization to get me and Chandra into the directing spot because you have to try and write us light and organize production meetings around our shooting schedules.

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC. Hit the comments with what you're looking forward to seeing.

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