Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy

ABC

13 seasons into her run as the star of Grey's Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo is finally adding another title to her actor-producer hyphenate: Director.

The actress stepped behind the camera for the first time this year, and the fruits of her labor are debuting tonight with the moving Maggie-centric episode that chronicles the young thoracic surgeon's quest to cure her adoptive mom after learning just how sick she truly is.

While directing wasn't always part of Pompeo's plan, when the offer to craft an hour of the show that made her a star came her way, she had no choice but to say yes. Eventually.

"The directing came about because Ms. Debbie Allen, she'd been after me to direct for a while. And I kept saying no," Pompeo admitted in a featurette released by ABC. "But Debbie doesn't take no for an answer and my boss [Shonda Rhimes] wrote a book called The Year of Yes, and those two things combined make it pretty hard to say no to people around here."

As Allen, who not only recurs as Dr. Catherine Avery, but also serves an executive producer, puts it, the decision to get Pompeo behind the camera was a no-brainer. "Ellen Pompeo as an actor has always been so generous, has always been so good about story," she said. "And I could see that she had this nurturing quality and she has a vision, so I asked her if she would direct."

While the mechanics of directing were a bit of a learning curve for Pompeo, she didn't let that stand in the way of realizing her vision for the episode. "We talked about just the basics of acting and capturing it on film. She knows the lingo of actors. The lingo of the camera is new to her," Allen explained. "I just love the command she is taking. She knows what she wants. If she doesn't know how to explain it to you, she'll figure it out."

After being on the receiving end of Pompeo's direction in her spotlight episode, Kelly McCreary sang the praises of her co-star. "Ellen is really in her element as a director," she said. "She has vision in spades."

The experience was such a natural fit, there's already talk of Pompeo calling the shots on another episode next season—if her day job doesn't get in the way, that is.

"We're already talking about next season," Allen said. "She's like, 'Debbie, I think I want to do two!' I'm like, 'Calm down, honey. Calm down because we need you in front of the camera.'"

Are you looking forward to Pompeo's big directorial debut? Sound off in the comments below.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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