Where 'Grey's Anatomy' Spinoff 'Station 19' (and Its Heroine) Stand in Shondaland

Star Jaina Lee Ortiz tells THR about "natural born leader" Andy Herrera, the female firefighter at the center of the new series.
Courtesy of ABC

Don't call Andy Herrera, the firefighter at the center of Grey's Anatomy spinoff Station 19, a strong female character. While Jaina Lee Ortiz's Andy is the latest in a line of Shondaland heroines, TGIT boss Shonda Rhimes has denounced the term "smart, strong women" and other descriptors of its ilk.

"There are no dumb, weak women. A smart strong woman is just a woman. Also? 'Women' are not a TV trend — we're half the planet," Rhimes tweeted.

For her part, Ortiz says she's happy her character is now counted alongside Grey's Anatomy's Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Scandal's Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and How to Get Away With Murder's Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) as a Shondaland leading lady.

"The women leading all of the shows have the same thing in common: They are very independent, successful, hard-working women and they'll go over whatever man they're in love with to get to where they want to be successfully. That speaks a lot about their characters," Ortiz told press, including The Hollywood Reporter, during a recent visit to the Station 19 set.

Andy Herrera, a firefighter at Seattle's Station 19 (located three blocks from Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital), Ortiz explains, is "a natural born leader. She's a warrior. She's definitely an alpha female. ... This show in particular, you can compare it to other firefighter shows and whatnot, but women are at the forefront. Women are the most strong, not just emotionally but physically. And they get to be supported by these awesome men."

Station 19 will feature cameos from Grey's Anatomy stars (Pompeo appears in the series premiere, airing March 22, and Chandra Wilson's Bailey will visit her onscreen husband Ben, played by Jason George), and Grey's regular-turned-Station 19 star George said his new series holds a very unique position in Shondaland.

"All the Shondaland shows have a level of intelligence, humor, pathos and human connection. I think that's common among all of them. You have really intense emotions, whether it be comedy or tragedy. But then we're the action piece," he says. "All the other shows have a much more intellectual bent. Scandal was D.C., the political side. Murder is about the legal side and all those machinations, that sort of thing. Grey's is this surgical position of life and death. But we're swinging axes and running into buildings that are on fire, and that's an element that hasn't existed in Shondaland yet, and it's bringing that special Shondaland perspective to it. Put a little bit of Shondaland sauce on that."

The stakes are high for firefighters and there's plenty of fast-paced action, but the stars say the series also has Shondaland's trademark blend of drama and soapiness. And Ortiz appreciates that a woman of color gets to lead the action.

"Women and minorities are so underrepresented on TV. Especially as a female working in a male-dominated industry," she says. "It's a breath of fresh air. This is the first time where I can look at a character that I'm playing on TV and go, 'I want to be more like her.' I wish me, Jaina, was more like Andy. She is not afraid to stand up and speak up for what she wants, and fight for it until she gets it."

Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.