'Grey's Anatomy's' Kevin McKidd on Sandra Oh's Exit and Exploring Owen Without Cristina

"Cristina Yang will always be Owen Hunt's person," the actor tells THR about his onscreen partner.
"Grey's Anatomy's" Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd

Kevin McKidd has no plans to leave Grey's Anatomy just because Sandra Oh, his longtime onscreen love interest, is exiting at the end of the medical drama's upcoming 10th season.

The actor, who joined the Shonda Rhimes drama in season five, is interested in exploring more of Dr. Owen Hunt's story -- without the support system the character has had in Oh's Dr. Cristina Yang.

"Pain is sometimes close to pleasure, and there's a lot of pain here," McKidd tells The Hollywood Reporter of his co-star's upcoming exit. "But there will be pleasure again to explore that."

Here, McKidd talks with THR about learning his co-star was leaving, hopes for Cristina and Owen, and how he'd wrap up Dr. Yang's 10-season journey.

STORY: Sandra Oh Departing 'Grey's Anatomy' After Season 10 (Exclusive)

The Hollywood Reporter: Were you surprised to hear that Sandra Oh was leaving?

Kevin McKidd: Sandra and I have been friends for as long as we've worked together, so I had a feeling it might be coming and that it was the right time for her. Selfishly, I was hoping and wishing she might make a different choice and decide to stay because I love working with her. I've had the great fortune and luck to be her acting partner and for her to be my acting partner for the last half a decade. It wasn't a surprise; I was aware of where she's at but was wishing and hoping that despite all that she might stick around so I might get to still act with her. It wasn't a surprise, but I was still sad when she told me.

THR: What was your conversation with Sandra like when she told you?

McKidd: It wasn't a long conversation; I just got really sad. I'm really happy for her, too, because it's the right thing for her right now, too, to take that new step forward in her life and career. She's an amazing talent. She has so many parts that she needs to play and work she needs to tackle, so it's obviously the right time for her. I'm happy for her, but I'm sad for me. (Laughs.)

THR: Do you want to continue on at Grey's Anatomy without her?

McKidd: Yes. Everybody is at a different point in their life. I'm still getting a lot out of playing Owen Hunt. I've done half as much time on the show as Sandra. I still feel there's stuff to open up and explore about Owen and to explore -- when the time comes -- the obvious grief he will be going through, which will be interesting to see what that brings up in his character and what the next phase of his life is going to be. In that respect, I'm still very excited about playing the role. In a way, I'm sad for Owen that he's got such a big bombshell coming for himself; the love of his life -- and I truly believe Cristina and Owen are the loves of each other's lives -- they're going to be broken apart. It's going to be a really great, fertile acting opportunity for me to get to play that, too. It's funny: Pain is sometimes close to pleasure, and there's a lot of pain here. But there will be pleasure again to explore that.

PHOTOS: The Couples of Shondaland: 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Private Practice,' 'Scandal'

THR: Do you know how Cristina's story ends? It sounds like it could be a sad ending for the duo.

McKidd: I really don't know how it ends or how it's going to be structured. I trust in the writers and the work that they've done with Cristina and Owen; it's never going to play out the way you expect it to. It's always going to be a surprise. They always make these quite interesting choices in life for Cristina and Owen, and that's what we've enjoyed in playing the characters as a couple and why the audience has responded to them. I don't know what the nuts and bolts of it will be but it will be a tough day. I remember when Kim Raver's Teddy left and Owen had to fire her. That was one of the toughest scenes I had to play emotionally because Kim is a friend. Sandra has been my ultimate acting partner in my career -- and I've been fortunate to work with many great actors -- but Sandra is at the top of that list as a co-acting partner, and she'll remain at the top of my list for a long time to come.

THR: Do you think there's a potential for Owen and Cristina to stay together even after she exits the show?

McKidd: I don't know. The only thing I'm sure of is I'm sure it will be a surprise. (Laughs.)

PHOTOS: 'Grey's Anatomy's' Famous Departures

THR: Have you spoken to Shonda yet about what this means for Cristina and Owen this season?

McKidd: When I was talking with Shonda and [EP] Betsy Beers about the future for Owen a few months ago, I was anxious -- if Sandra decided she wants to leave and that's the right thing for her -- if the character of Owen was valuable as a character alone? Shonda has been very vocal to me that she's interested in exploring Owen Hunt. He's always been so connected to Cristina and has needed her presence so much. When he first showed up with PTSD, the only person whom he could find solace with was Cristina Yang, [but] that has continued less so as he's found his own footing and healed himself in these last few seasons. That constant presence for him has always been there, and Shonda has expressed that she's excited about the idea of seeing who Owen is when he doesn't have his comfort blanket and support network that is Cristina Yang.

STORY: 'Grey's Anatomy's' Kevin McKidd: Cristina Will Help Owen Find His Person

THR: Last we spoke, you mentioned Cristina will help Owen find his person to have kids with. Is that still the case?

McKidd: It's all very new and nothing is set in stone. Cristina Yang will always be Owen Hunt's person. But Cristina makes the bigger choice to help Owen find a person who is the right candidate or surrogate or co-parent as opposed to finding a new "person." That would be weird for Cristina's character to want to engage in that -- but certainly [she wants] to find a safe harbor for him. She loves him that much that she wants him to have that experience that he's always wanted to have. As far as the exit, we really don't know yet. I'm sure somewhere in Shonda's mind she has some amazing ideas that are going to be fantastic. I wouldn't even want to know it right now because I'm still processing the news and getting over it and assimilating to the fact that at a certain point in about nine months, I'm not going to get to act with Sandra again. It's a tough one for me.

THR: If you were to write the season finale, how does Cristina's story end?

McKidd: (Laughs.) It has to be some kind of blaze of glory. I would definitely not like for her to die. It has to be some kind of healing moment for Cristina Yang, where she's transcended so much medically that the hospital can't contain her anymore. Maybe Owen helps -- if she's going to be helping him find a person to have a kid with, it'd be nice to see him help her transcend to the next level of wherever it is she's headed.

Grey's Anatomy returns for its 10th season with a two-hour premiere on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. on ABC. Hit the comments with your thoughts on McKidd's future with the series.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com