'Grey's Anatomy': Vanessa Marano to Play Sexual Assault Victim in Ripped-From-the-Headlines Episode

The April 19 hour is "a little Law & Order: SVU,"the "Switched at Birth" star tells THR.
"Grey's Anatomy's" Vanessa Marano, Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey

ABC's Grey's Anatomy will take a page from NBC's Law & Order: SVU next week when the Shonda Rhimes drama admits a patient whose chart reads like a national headline.

During the medical drama's April 19 hour, Switched at Birth star Vanessa Marano will check in to Seattle Grace as a Jane Doe who ultimately turns out to be Holly Weeler, the subject of a kidnapping case that gained interest across the country.

"She's found in the woods just destroyed and completely messed up," Marano told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. "As the episode progresses, [the doctors] find out that there's more to Holly than meets the eye in the sense that what she's admitted for is not truly what is the issue with her: there's a lot of psychological, damaged, torturedness to her. It's a little Law & Order: SVU."

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While many of the medical cases depicted on Grey's Anatomy are based on actual events, Marano's bears a striking resemblance to those of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard.

Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom at the age of 14 and found nine months later after being forced into a polygamous marriage and repeatedly raped.Her abductors were both eventually convicted of the kidnapping.

Dugard was 11 when she was abducted from her home and remained missing for more than 18 years, during which time she was repeatedly raped and kept in a concealed area behind her abductor's home. Her abductors plead guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault.

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"I'm portraying someone who has been through that situation or at least a very similar situation and I still can't wrap my head around what they must feel," Marano says, noting she'd seen interviews with both Dugard and Smart before booking the role.

During the episode, titled "The Girl With No Name," Holly will connect with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) for support as she is treated for injuries both physical and mental. "Meredith is the first female she's come in contact with in 12 years," Marano says. "It's the first almost-mothering feeling that Meredith gives off -- because Meredith is a new mother -- and Holly takes to right away because she's lacked that."

Such a major case will naturally bring a media circus to Seattle Grace, where an unstable Owen (Kevin McKidd) turns to Richard (James Pickens Jr.) for advice in how to manage the crisis.

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"Owen is very good in that very practical crisis management but when it becomes about managing media, he's usually the guy in the shadows," McKidd tells THR. "He's not used to being at the front and he has to become the media face of the hospital, which is a lot for Owen; he's not designed to be in the limelight."

Holly's case becomes the latest controversial surgery to bring all the docs together, joining the "domino" procedure and separation of conjoined twins in the show's medical history.

"We love to concentrate on a major case where lots of the doctors can be involved and that's what this one is," Chandra Wilson (Bailey) tells THR. "We need every single area -- neuro, internal medicine, Callie (Sara Ramirez) even weighs in on this surgery at some point -- because this girl has been severely mangled. It's going to take all of us to help her survive; everyone in the hospital really bands together to really take care of this young girl."

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

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