'Grey's Anatomy's' Kelly McCreary on Maggie's Devastating Loss

'Grey's Anatomy' 26 March - Still - H 2017

[This story contains spoilers from Thursday's "Be Still, My Soul" episode of Grey's Anatomy.]

Meredith and Maggie's bond just got deeper on ABC's Grey's Anatomy.

During Thursday's Ellen Pompeo-directed episode, Maggie's (Kelly McCreary) mother Diane Pierce (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) passed away after complications from a clinical trial to treat an aggressive cancer. Her passing came after Diane, pressured by her daughter to do the clinical trial, fired Meredith from the case as pretty much everyone at the hospital thought it was a bad idea.

Ultimately though, the episode drew parallels between Meredith and the death of her mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), as well as Maggie and her own mother, as the two siblings now have the experience of a shared loss in common. The hour was a true showcase for McCreary as Maggie is left to make sense of her mom's advice to have more fun and fall in love.

THR was on the set of the episode and spoke with McCreary about Maggie's game-changing episode.

What was filming this episode like for you? 

It’s been amazing because the journey that Maggie is on really hits close to home for so many people. We all know someone — a parent, or a close friend, or a friend of a friend — who we've lost too soon, or very tragically. Just being on set and looking around at the crew, I imagine every single person here has had an experience like this. It's been amazing to draw on that energy and feel the connection to people who have had to persevere through really sad, challenging times, and come out on the other side. I think I have had the opportunity in this experience to really draw on parts of my humanity that I just haven't had the opportunity to yet on this show, and I feel closer to other people, just generally. My heart is more open.

Maggie's mom has passed. How will this impact her going forward?

I'm going to start crying just thinking about it. Maggie is different than a lot of the characters on the show but particularly her sisters in that she had a really lovely home life growing up and really has a strong relationship with her parents. A friend of mine who lost her sister recently said that when someone who is that close to you dies, a part of you dies, too. That is really true for Maggie. There's a great big hole that is left behind by her mother's passing and a change in her sense of identity. Maggie came to Grey Sloan seeking to fill a hole in her identity. She came to Seattle looking for information about her biological family, and then she found it and that got filled up, and now there's a new great big gaping hole in her life. It's hard. She doesn't know what to do with herself. But it's also different from Meredith and other characters on this show because she really leans in to her support system and gets what she needs.

Amelia and Meredith both went, in Grey's speak, "dark and twisty" following the deaths of their loved ones. Will Maggie explore her inner "twisted sister"?

Are we going to see Maggie go dark? I don't know what the future holds, but Maggie will grieve in the way that seems, from the outside, to be relatively healthy. The thing about grief is that we think of it in stages, or we've been told that it's stages, but those stages go in cycles. So when she gets to anger, or returns to anger or denial, maybe some dark stuff will come up then.  

Who will she lean on?

She'll definitely lean on her sisters. She leans a lot on the memory of her mother. And once she can forgive Jackson for his role in it — she's been very angry at him up to this point — then they will probably enter a new phase of their friendship.

Meredith and Nathan are moving forward with their relationship — or at least talking about doing so when the time is right. How might Maggie respond to that?  

As far as I'm concerned, Maggie seems to be over Nathan. It’s been a while since you’ve heard Maggie talk about Nathan, and while I think there's still the potential of a real sense of confusion or, at worst, betrayal when she finds out what’s been going on with Meredith and Nathan, I don't think she's that hung up on him anymore.

Maggie is such an interesting character: Personally and professionally, she's very level-headed and among the more evolved characters. Yet she always struggles with romantic relationships. Why is that?

One thing that's really awesome about Maggie is that she has been, from the beginning, really unafraid to express her need for community and love and connection. Maybe that's not different from other characters, but that is very unique to her, and it's so sweet. She just made up her mind she was going to really like Meredith no matter how she treated her, and she won. She eventually forged that relationship. That determination — the same determination that she applies to her professional life and her surgical skill and her relationship with Meredith — she will apply to a relationship eventually.

Ellen Pompeo directed this episode. What was going down an emotional rabbit hole like this like with your co-star at the helm?

Ellen was an extremely energetic director. She came in with so many ideas — and a personal connection and great deal of enthusiasm for this particular storyline. The writing is so strong on it that we were so excited to be able to tell this story together. Ellen has a real knack for the visual, and I think she's spent enough time on the set over the years to know how to be excited to have an opportunity to put her spin on how things might look. … There's a lot of Maggie on her own to depict this profound isolation of what it's like when you're taking over the caretaking role in a mother-daughter relationship and when you're in a foreign environment. Ellen just has so many ideas for how to capture that.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.