Grey's Anatomy Showrunner Says COVID-19 Protocols Have Changed the "Feeling of the Show"

Season 17 of Grey's Anatomy will directly tackle the coronavirus. In a new interview with Variety, showrunner Krista Vernoff explained what else will look different.

By Jonathan Borge Oct 02, 2020 2:40 PMTags
Watch: Ellen Pompeo Wanted to Quit "Grey's Anatomy" Many Times

The staff at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital better buckle up for a wild ride. 

Months after Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff revealed that season 17 of the beloved medical drama will tackle the coronavirus pandemic (just like other network hits such as This Is Us), new details are here to give viewers a taste of how, exactly, the show will look different. 

In a new interview with Variety, Vernoff said production has implemented "massive" safety protocols for COVID-19. "It's social distancing, it's masks, it's visors—it's masks on the actors between takes and during rehearsals," Vernoff said. Additionally, stars like Ellen Pompeo and the crew are not allowed to speak in the hair and makeup trailer, where their faces are bare, and the actors carry their own tools for makeup touch-ups. Also, the stars and anyone who approaches them within six feet have to be tested three times a week.

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Of course, these new measures will also impact the look of the show fans have grown to love. Specifically, new lenses on the cameras help actors appear closer than they really are and shorter schedules mean less scenes in each script. Vernoff said, "It's just shocking how slowly we're having to move."

The biggest change? Those hospital hallways that are typically packed with panicked nurses and new emergency room patients will now be pretty quiet considering they can't shoot crowds of people. "It changes the feeling of the show; it changes the pacing of the show," Vernoff said. "It is what it is."

That said, Vernoff promises plenty to look forward to come the show's return. "I keep saying to people, ‘No, no really, we've actually reinvented the wheel. We are changing everything everyone has ever understood about how you make television," she said. "Everything is changing...and I'm proud of what we're doing."


Vernoff kept her interview spoiler-free, but she did confirm that the premiere, a two-hour crossover event with Station 19, will find the characters weeks into the pandemic. It will also include flashbacks to life before COVID-19. While she was originally hesitant to include coronavirus in the storyline, citing viewers' "fatigue," her colleagues in the writers' room encouraged her to think differently. 

She said that co-executive producer Lynne E. Litt told her, "I think it's the biggest medical story of our lifetimes." And Naser Alazari, a doctor on the writing staff, echoed her statement. According to Vernoff, he said, "This is the biggest medical story of our lifetime, and it is changing medicine permanently. And we have to tell this story." 

These days, it's safe to say the doctor knows best.

Season 17 of Grey's Anatomy premieres on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.