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Denzel Washington, Best Actor Noms

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

When you're planning to have your main character horrifically attacked, you want the best in the business working on the episode. Case in point? Shonda Rhimes enlisting Denzel Washington to direct this week's sure-to-be traumatic midseason premiere of Grey's Anatomy.

The episode, which sees the doctors of Grey-Sloan Memorial spring into action after Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is brutalized by a patient, is a step above anything the show's attempted before, star Jason George tells E! News—and Washington's presence only elevated things further. "This is one where at the table-read, everyone's jaw was on the floor. The writers went beyond, I mean, truly—it's different than what we're used to," he says. "There's so much about it that blew me away. And then they throw us this curve ball of Denzel Washington directing!"

Jason George, Martin Henderson, Jesse Williams, Grey's Anatomy


Having an actor direct the cast, especially one of Washington's acclaim and caliber, raised everyone's game—on camera and off—George adds. "There is a slight difference when a director [who] has been an actor is directing you," he says. "Denzel leads everybody in the dust in terms of that. He can hit to the core of what's really going on for you in that scene very quickly and get everybody focused."

Maybe a little too focused, it seems. "He also had everyone's attention! I think the women tended to dress up a lot more than usual," he continues. "Usually they wear sweatpants to work and what not, and suddenly it's dresses and make-up was done at 5 a.m. in the morning. It was all new! Definitely, you were on top of your game when Denzel was directing."

So how did the director prepare himself to step into Shondaland? (Besides simply being Denzel Washington, of course.) Turns out he received some particularly important words of encouragement at home. "He said his wife is a huge fan and broke it down to him," George says. "And I think she said she kind of gave him the, 'Don't you screw this up' talk, which is hilarious, because I'm sure she's one of three people on the planet that can talk to Denzel like he's any old body and be like, ‘Look, that's my show. Don't you mess it up. Let me explain to you who they are.'"

Something tells us that, under Washington's direction, the show was in great hands.

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

—Reporting by Tierney Bricker