[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the May 19 season 12 finale of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.]
So that is why Jo (Camilla Luddington) could never accept Alex’s marriage proposal.
Thursday’s season 12 finale of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy finally revealed Alex and Jo’s big roadblock to wedded bliss: she’s already married.
With nothing seemingly standing in their way, the third marriage proposal wasn’t the charm for the happy couple when Jo instead told Alex that she’d like to jump over the wedding and go straight to having children. That didn’t work for Alex, who storms off. That sends Jo to the bar where she winds up getting drunk and spilling her guts to Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti). As turns out, Jo is married and left her abusive husband — and never filed for divorce because she feared that the well liked and charismatic guy would track her down after she left him and disappeared.
This being Grey’s Anatomy, DeLuca winds up looking out for Jo and drives her home, where she proceeds to drunkenly undress as she prepares to go to bed, with Alex walking in to find the friends in an innocent, yet compromising position.
The finale set the stage for Grey’s to tackle spousal abuse when season 13 of the Shondaland drama returns in the fall.
Below, Luddington talks with THR about Jo’s initiation into the Grey’s Anatomy Long-Lost Relative club and more.
Jo is already married. How did you find out and what was your reaction?
I knew at around January that Shonda was toying with the idea of unearthing some of Jo’s past. I knew she was going through different scenarios of what that could possibly be. I had no idea for sure what it could be, just that we were going to dig it up. But I didn’t know if it was going to be something that could affect Alex. Way back in season nine, Jo does reference something — after the whole Chest Peckwell fight — something abusive having happened in her past. I thought maybe it would be an ex-boyfriend showing up. I didn’t know she was married until the table read [for the finale].
What was the cast’s reaction like? How did Justin respond?
Nobody else knew that Jo was married. I didn’t know that was the storyline that was going to happen. I wasn’t sure Jo would be answering the question at the end of the season. When I read it, there were castmembers gasping. Justin was sitting across the table from me and just shook his head at me! (Laughing.) I told him, “I’m so sorry!”
Why would Jo keep this a secret all these years and never file for divorce?
She’s drunk but from what she said, her husband is super charismatic and everyone loved him. At the same time, he was extremely dangerous. She thinks if she files, he will be able to find her and she has gone almost undercover; she ran from him and, in her mind, disappeared from him. Jo thinks that will unearth everything and he’ll find her. She’s protecting herself and Alex at the same time because her husband is dangerous and if he found out Jo was with Alex, that could be a bad thing for Alex, too.
Has this been the reason the proposal hasn’t worked out every time? There was a period where Meredith seemed like obstacle. Was that an excuse?
I don’t think it was an excuse; that genuinely was something that made her think that the relationship itself wasn’t going to work out. When she got to that point in this season when she came home, Jo was thinking of breaking up with Alex because of Meredith and because Jo felt like she wasn’t a priority. At the same time, then Alex proposes to Jo. At that point, she didn’t even know where they stood as a couple. So to unearth this painful secret that she’s been carrying — and she’s worried about being a danger to Alex — it wasn’t the right time for Jo. Slowly over the season, we haven’t seen them fight; they’ve been living together and having great morning sex and getting along. Now, it really is more of an issue because there’s nothing else holding her back. Without that past, 100 percent, that ring would have been on her finger by this point.
Alex punches DeLuca. Might DeLuca play a bigger role in helping reconnect Alex and Jo?
We don’t know anything about next season yet. But from Jo’s point of view, the reason she says, “Let’s have a baby,” which comes from out of left field, is because she’s all in and she loves him and wants to have that family with him. She’s genuinely terrified of someone else ruining their relationship, someone who destroyed her before and she had to build herself back up. It doesn’t mean that Jo doesn’t want to be with Alex; she does — but in order for that to happen, she will have to tell him. And if she doesn’t, I can’t imagine him forgiving her for saying no [to his latest proposal]. Because what is the reason she’s saying no?! And now with DeLuca, it looks like she’s cheating.
The way the season ends, does it seem like Jo and Alex broke up?
My impression is that if I were Alex, I’d want to be done. For Alex, she said no and she can’t give him a good enough reason and then he thinks maybe she’s cheating. So yes, I’d be done if I were Alex.
Grey’s continues to introduce people from everyone’s past and now Jo is in the club of those with long-lost relatives. Have you had any casting conversations with the producers about introducing Jo’s husband?
I haven’t had any. If he does get introduced at some point, it’s interesting that he’s a charismatic person that everyone loves. It’s a spin on the type of manipulative person he is. Part of me never wants to see him because he is someone who in the past had a lot of power over her but there’s another part of me who absolutely wants to meet him.
The finale really sets the stage for Grey’s to tell a larger domestic abuse storyline in season 13. What kind of conversations have you had with Shonda about how that will be handled?
We’ve discussed that before anything gets into more detail, that we’ll sit down and have a one-on-one with each other. With the bigger, more serious and delicate issues we take on, Shonda knows that it needs to be discussed ahead of time for the direction to go in and how to handle that. I’m assuming we’re going in the direction of exploring it and I think a meeting at some point will happen when we get deep into it.
Private Practice previously touched on the storyline in season five and partnered with organizations like RAINN for such storylines. Have you already begun doing any research into victims of spousal abuse?
I have but this is so recent; we read that script a few weeks ago so it’s very new to me. When Jo referenced it in season nine, I wasn’t sure and I’m not sure even the writers were sure about what happened to her. It was hard to dive into that when you’re not sure what the details are. But going into hiatus and getting ready for next season, it’s something that I will definitely be reading about and trying to get a lot more understanding of how the dynamics of those relationships work. It’s going to be absolutely important in order to tell the story right.
What did you think of Jo’s big reveal? Sound off in the comments section, below.