How 'Grey's Anatomy' Is Going Back to Its Roots in Season 14

Grey's Anatomy Still Ellen Pompeo - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of ABC

ABC's Grey's Anatomy is rapidly approaching ER's 15-season record as TV's longest-running medical drama. And to help ensure that the veteran Shondaland soap gets there, the series is going back to its roots.

Rejoining Grey's Anatomy for its 14th season is Krista Vernoff, who wrote and exec produced the series for its first eight seasons and has since worked on Showtime dramedy Shameless as well as Grey's spinoff Private Practice. To hear Grey's stars Kelly McCreary (Maggie) and Giacomo Gianniotti (Andrew DeLuca) tell it, Vernoff's return is helping to bring back some much-needed levity. Seriously.

"Krista coming back is exciting. From the moment she stepped on set, she approached us all individually and talked with us and asked us all our deepest desires and dreams and about our personal life and has made a real effort to infuse that to Grey's Anatomy," Gianniotti tells THR. "We have some new writers and fresh voices that are going to give this season an amazing new vibe and energy. It's going to be lighter and funnier. Krista wants comedy and wants people to laugh. That's the way she started it and she wants to continue that."

Vernoff helped make a distinct mark on Grey's during its first eight seasons, contributing writing duties on a number of key episodes, including season one's "If Tomorrow Never Comes," season two's "Into You Like a Train" and season six's two-parter "Good Mourning," all of which had moments of levity intermixed with the trademark dark and twistiness that the Shonda Rhimes-produced drama is best known for.

Season 14 will return with a two-hour premiere that will pick up moments after the explosive season 13 finale that marked the final episode for series regular Jerrika Hinton (Stephanie) and recurring guest-star Marika Dominczyk (Eliza). The supersized episode will provide updates on all the main characters — and offer the first glimpse of the lighter tone that Vernoff and company are injecting into the drama.

"We're touching base in a meaningful way with where we left off with all the characters from last season and to contain that much story in two hours, you have to keep it light, bouncy and fun — and Krista Vernoff brings that shift to the show," McCreary tells THR.

That's not to say that Grey's will shy away from serious subjects that it has featured in the past — especially as Owen's sister Megan (now played by Abigail Spencer) returns after being held hostage in Iraq — and presumed dead by both her brother and love interest Nathan (Martin Henderson). That will undoubtedly throw a wrench into Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Nathan's burgeoning relationship. Also likely to provide her fair share of drama is Teddy Altman (Kim Raver), with the character sure to complicate Owen's already unstable marriage to Amelia (Caterina Scorsone). Then there's Maggie, who is still reeling from the death of her mother in season 13 — and now has to contend with her half-sister romantically paired with the guy she had a crush on.

"As these characters have matured, they're going to go through dramatic stuff in their lives; they're going to lose parents, spouses, have difficulty in their marriages. And we've gotten to see all of that in the last several seasons," McCreary says. "It feels like we're taking little shifts back toward things being a bit easier on everybody. And if not easier, the characters are taking them more lightly. That's what the fans have to look forward to in Krista's leadership and it's right there in the first episode of the season."

As for what's to come, McCreary says Maggie will continue to be the "truther" on the show as she examines her feelings for Jackson (Jesse Williams) as the third point in his potential love triangle with April (Sarah Drew). Gianniotti, meanwhile, will also see the arrival of his sister from Italy provide both drama and humor. "She's a doctor and she has a very specific specification that is not controversial but makes DeLuca uncomfortable. It'll be fun to watch it play out — her scenes with Andrew are going to be very funny."

Viewers will also "see something new" for Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), Gianniotti notes of DeLuca's onscreen roommate, declining to provide additional details. So while their household will be experiencing a lot of changes, DeLuca will still remain entangled with Jo (Camilla Luddington) and Alex (Justin Chambers) who will also have to contend with the return of Jo's ex-husband (played by Glee's Matthew Morrison). Oh, and lest everyone forget, they're all still working doctors with a steady stream of patients on their hands, too.

"We'll still have our guest-stars coming in where you'll still need your tissue box, but we're going to enjoy our characters having a bit of fun and swing between a little drama and comedy," Gianniotti says.

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. on ABC.