'Grey's Anatomy's' Jesse Williams on Jackson's Personal, Professional Battles

Grey's Anatomy TV Still - H 2013

Grey's Anatomy TV Still - H 2013

Jackson Avery's life is about to become much more complicated on ABC's Grey's Anatomy.

After plane crash survivors Derek (Patrick Dempsey), Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Cristina (Sandra Oh), Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) united in an attempt to bail out the hospital that ended when Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) came in at the eleventh hour to save Seattle Grace from liquidation, Jackson -- in a surprise move -- was appointed a seat on the board, promoting him to the facility's top dog.

The gig, however, won't come easy as Owen (Kevin McKidd) will struggle with a loss of authority and the rest of the staff gets used to the new power structure. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Jesse Williams to get the scoop on Jackson's top job, how he'll handle the political position as well as how he feels about April and Matthew's (Ringer's Justin Bruening) burgeoning romance.

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The Hollywood Reporter: How will Jackson handle the new responsibility that his mother has thrust upon him?
Jesse Williams: It's a lot for him to take on at once; he didn't ask for it. The source of it is going to feed into how he handles it. It's a huge and unprecedented for him that he never saw in his near- or possibly even long-term future, and it's happening as a result of something he had no control over -- his family legacy. That becomes a bitter pill for him to swallow. For a long time, he's been trying to avoid that. It's going to lead to some friction both personally and with his co-workers, where it becomes difficult to oversee the staff and the decisions that have to be made by the board of directors with Jackson being the deciding vote. It's a big undertaking that's a lot to take on for anybody, even with a running start, and he didn't have the luxury of that.

THR: How will his mother play a role in his new position? Might we see him butt heads with Catherine?
Williams: It's a push and pull with his mom. At the heart of it all, she's his mother and wants what's best for him. He's used to her being a meddling mother and pushing; that's how he's gotten to where he's gotten. It's coming from a good place. You're not going to see a petulant response. You're going to see some conflict around making sure she appreciates what she did, that maybe she should apologize and acknowledge that she's forcing something down Jackson's throat. That can either threaten to push Jackson further from Webber [James Pickens Jr.] because he's involved in this or it can bring us closer because he could offer wisdom and insight. Beyond that, there could be some issues coming with Jackson's co-workers -- with April [Sarah Drew] and Stephanie [Jerrika Hinton]. Jackson and April can't keep avoiding each other. We'll see if this added stress has an effect on them. It's going to reach a boiling point soon. Jackson has to make some hard decisions, and a lot of the other doctors aren't going to like that.

THR: We've seen in the promos that Owen quits. How might we see Jackson respond?
Williams: Some hard decisions have to be made, and that's going to involve staffing and who's working where, and who has what responsibilities. Every character has their own attachments and loyalties: You mess with Owen, you mess with Cristina; you mess with Arizona, you're dealing with Callie. With a lot of tensions and alliances, it almost turns into a reality show like Survivor where you have this undercurrent of bitterness and tension. Jackson is also the youngest person on the staff and has the least amount of loyalty and fewest alliances. There's going to be some arguments, fights, and tension, and Jackson has to learn how to be a leader and not be everybody's friend. Owen is a big one as chief of surgery. He's always been there for Jackson in the past and has given him the hard lessons in the past, which makes it difficult for Jackson to make a tough decision involving him.  

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THR: Might Jackson turn to April or Stephanie for support in this process?
Willliams: Jackson is more of a lone wolf. He's not really built to go seek support and a shoulder to cry on. He will be interacting with both April and Stephanie, and there is chemistry with both of these women. But he's got so much on his plate that if he knew what choice he wanted to make, I'm not sure he'd have time to follow up on it.

THR: How will Jackson respond to April and Matt's blossoming romance?
Williams: We've got some great scenes coming up where their relationship is really in his face, and Jackson has to deal with it. It's a real test for him. Jackson has already fought for April -- with the proposal and the pregnancy scare -- and she really hurt him and burned that bridge with him. There are only so many times someone can keep coming back for more. She's always given him a verbal and emotional beating. He cares about her and it wouldn't be a stretch to say he loves her, but there are only so many times he can put his hand on a hot stove. At a certain point watching her be with Matthew and seeing her find happiness with someone else, he can't help but think, "What the hell, as long as she's happy, I need to move on."

THR: Is there a future for Jackson and April? 
Williams: It's hard to tell. One episode and one scene we do, absolutely. They have great chemistry and it'd be really nice for them to make it work. You could argue, on the other hand, that it would make sense to for them to learn from mistakes and move on.

THR: How long can we expect Jackson to remain in this role?
Williams: If you were to ask him this week, his answer would be more short-term. Every day there's the potential to lose that job and get caught unprepared. It's completely different than being in the OR. It's a tightrope he has to walk on and for how long, I do not know.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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