ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, once known for its steamy boiler room and on-call room hook-ups, has seen its once over-active libido get off to a rather slow start in its 11th season.
The series’ central couple — Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) — are in a long-term relationship with two children and, this season, juggling two very demanding careers. Another long-term couple — Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Ben (Jason George) — are rarely on screen together considering the latter’s series regular job on ABC’s Mistresses. Newlyweds April (Sarah Drew) and Jackson (Jesse Williams) are already pregnant. Year-old couple Alex (Justin Chambers) and Jo (Camilla Luddington) are dealing with a third wheel in Meredith, who has dubbed the former her new “person” after Cristina’s (Sandra Oh) departure, which has left Owen (Kevin McKidd) single (though not quite ready to mingle).
So has Grey’s Anatomy lost that loving feeling?
“I think everybody has slept with everybody, so who else is there? I think there needs to be a resurgence in that,” Dempsey told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. “It’s a teaching hospital and there’s a lot of really young talented actors out there that need an opportunity that we should be brining them in and rotating them in as interns. I think that’s a possibility, and stirring up the hospital a bit would be a good thing. That’s why it would be nice to open it up.”
Of course the seeming lack of sexy time has nothing to do with Grey’s Anatomy‘s new time slot at 8 p.m., with showrunner Shonda Rhimes telling THR in July that she had no plans to change the content of the show. “I don’t think there’s anything we’ve done at 9 that we can’t do at 8, and I’m not about to change the content of what my show is to match some arbitrary rule,” she said at the time.
Meanwhile, one of the show’s most beloved and longest-running relationships, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), just called it quits after a pre-breakup romp against their therapist’s recommendation. Other regulars, including Stephanie (Jerrika Hinton), Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) have wide-open dance cards. (Scorsone and McKidd seem open to an Owen-Amelia romantic pairing, though there have been no signs that Grey’s will head in that direction.)
“Unless everybody is going to embrace where they are on the Kinsey spectrum and just start making out with other ladies, they need to bring in some new guys,” jokes Hinton, whose Stephanie was dating Jackson before he brutally ditched her for April. “There aren’t many options, and I think that’s part of the reason why it has been tempered a bit.
McCreary, who plays Meredith’s half-sister and was recently promoted to series regular, has yet to find out anything about her character’s love life but knows that Maggie’s options at the moment are limited. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the hospital that’s really her person, her partner,” she says. “I think they’d have to bring somebody in from the outside.”
Ramirez, meanwhile, believes Callie and Arizona need a “transitionary period” for both characters to process their newfound independence so that they can be comfortable exploring any sort of relationship again.
“It’s not like you’re dead just because you’re single again,” she says. “You’re not; you’re still a breathing human being with needs. It will be interesting to see how people that have been coupled up for so long and share a child consider the possibility of tapping back into that ‘sexy-time-in-the-on-call-room life. I don’t know if that’s coming but the potential is there.”
For their part, Chambers and Luddington remain optimistic that there is plenty of sexy time to come this season.
“The first half of this season especially is mourning that loss of Christina and Meredith adjusting to her sister — and I think that maybe the second half of the season will be a little more steamy,” says Luddington, who notes that she’s had her “fair share of pasty scenes” as Jo.
Adds Chambers with a laugh of what’s to come for Alex and Jo: “I better get back to the gym!”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.