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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the “All I Could Do Was Cry” episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.]
The fate of April and Jackson’s baby was revealed during Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy, when the entire staff of Grey Sloan came together for two of their own.
During the hour, April and Jackson found out that their unborn son was type two osteogenesis imperfecta — aka brittle bone disorder — and had little to no hope to survive beyond a few days.
Star Sarah Drew — who was pregnant during filming — pitched April’s journey to Grey’s showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who plotted a heartwrenching story that explored faith and religion.
The episode saw April seemingly lash out after proclaiming that she is finally becoming the person “he” wants her to be and then being dealt such a devastating blow. It prompts husband Jackson (Jesse Williams) to follow Amelia’s (Caterina Scorsone) advice and head to the chapel to pray.
Ultimately, after consoling another patient who lost her fiance, April is ready and delivers her baby — named Samuel Norbert Avery — who dies shortly after birth.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Drew to discuss April’s gut-wrenching episode.
What was it like shooting all this stuff while you were pregnant?
Ten hours after I fake delivered, I went into labor, it was crazy and really intense. I was watching the episode last week and got super emotional just looking at my belly because I didn’t know my daughter’s name yet, I didn’t know she was girl yet and there I am looking at my belly with her inside of me and there was something so crazy weird about seeing that. It was emotionally intense [shooting that] for sure.
What inspired you to pitch this story to Shonda?
I pitched this story sort of by accident. Last season, April and Catherine (Debbie Allen) had a pro-life pro-choice scenario where Catherine was making an assumption about what all Christians believe. I had offered this story — my mom sent me an email saying this happened to our friend as an example of the not so black-and-white way of looking at this issue. I sent that along to Grey’s. When I found out that April was pregnant, I told Shonda, “Oh, you’re totally going to use that story that happened to my friend, right?” She wasn’t planning on it but said it’s amazing and that they were totally going to use that. I got really excited about it because I thought it would be amazing to see how a couple, where one person is a person of faith and one person isn’t dealt with a scenario like this and what that struggle would be and hopefully offer a not so black-and-white way of looking at this.
How do you think this experience will change April going forward?
Going forward she has been to hell and back and she now has no patience for things that don’t matter. She has as scene in a later episode where a patient does something really stupid to himself and winds up in the hospital and she offers no compassion for him. “You’re an idiot, why would you do that?!” We’ll see a side of her that’s grittier and a little less patient and compassionate for things that don’t deserve compassion. (Laughs.)
Sounds like a bit of Bailey (Chandra Wilson).
April’s faith was tested here. How does this experience impact her religious beliefs?
What I loved so much when I read the script was that, if anything, it strengthens her faith but maybe gives it a level of maturity that she didn’t have before. The moment where she feels like God is laughing at her, that felt so real and so honest. It’s a real question: The question of why bad things happen to good people if God is good and all powerful, why does He let this kind of stuff happen? That’s a very real question and I love that we get to explore that and April gets to go through that. What I love the most was seeing this small miracle happen, which happens after Jackson goes to the chapel and prays to a God he doesn’t believe in. Then April receives this small miracle in form of caring for this woman who lost her fiancé. I saw that scene — as April is hugging this woman, the words she speaks to this woman are the words that God is speaking to her. As she’s saying, “You’re strong, you will get through this, you have suffered, you will be OK.” Those are all things that, when shooting that scene, I felt a covering — like, “God has me and this is awful and painful, but he’s with me and he’s not abandoned me and I’m not alone.” That ends up growing someone’s faith more than all the good news in the world and the happy blessings in the world could ever do. I think April walks out of this scenario believing in a God who cares about her beyond this.
What about Jackson — how will this experience change him? He prayed, that’s already a huge difference.
I’m not holding my breath for Jackson to all the sudden to start believing in God. I do think all he wants to do is love his wife and care for her and support her and do what the best possible thing is for her. You’ll see him being the best rock star husband anybody could ever ask for — and also dealing with the his own pain that comes with all of it.
One of the things that Grey’s does so well is having good things happen in the middle of sad situations — Sandra Oh’s exit opened the door for Kelly McCreary, etc. — and here, it seems Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and Catherine have reunited. Will we see more of that?
I don’t really remember because the next couple episodes are a fog for me because I went into labor 10 hours after I shot my labor scene and wasn’t in the next two episodes! So I don’t remember if she’s back. (Laughs.)
See more ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Famous Departures
Amelia, who can most relate to April’s journey, wound up offering the best advice to everyone — to light candles in the chapel — will this bring them closer together?
We haven’t had scenes together yet, but I hope that happens. I think Amelia would be an amazing friend and confidant for April going forward and dealing with this stuff. We’ll see, we haven’t seen it yet, but maybe it will happen.
This also seemed to bring Owen (Kevin McKidd) and Amelia together, too, creating two potentially positive things from such a horrible situation.
That’s what I love about this episode so much: For me, it really is about finding joy and peace and hope in the midst of pain and tragedy. If you look hard enough, you can find hope anywhere you go. I read the script and started weeping uncontrollably.
What did you think of April and Jackson’s story? Share your thoughts on the episode, below. Grey’s Anatomy airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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