Last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy was a major one for April and Jackson (the proof is in all those Twitter reaction gifs). Fans finally got their wish for a hot and heavy romantic moment between the pair when the two passionately hooked up on a work trip in snowy Montana. (Thank you, Catherine Avery, for so brilliantly setting that up!)
“That episode ended with a tremendous amount of hope,” Sarah Drew (who plays April) explained during the cast’s recent panel at Paleyfest. “Whether that translates into romance or just a solidification that they are each other’s person and they’ll always be best friends, that has yet to be seen. We’ll see what happens.”
Although social media was abuzz that the couple might finally get back together, there was a subtle, more significant moment in the episode that viewers might have skipped over. About 10 minutes into the episode, Jackson is on the phone with April, where she’s sitting on the bed in her Montana hotel room. She’s got her laptop in front of her, but it’s not her main focus. Instead, she’s tightening a bottle having just breast pumped milk for her baby, Harriet, who was back in Seattle with Catherine.
What’s significant about that, you ask? Originally, that wasn’t in the scene.
“I asked to have [that] pumping scene,” Drew revealed to Glamour. “As a breastfeeding mother, I would be pumping if I was away from my baby. So that action, that cut, made it into the scene. It’s something I really care about and is part of, for me, what it means to be a working mother. You have to account for all of that stuff when you travel away from your child. I always really celebrate the moments where we get a window into that struggle or that journey.”
Drew approached the episode’s director—none other than Kevin McKidd, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt on the series—for permission to add the breast pumping equipment to the scene. “I was like, ‘It’s not in the script, but I would like to have a pump here, and I would like to be doing this action. And can we make sure that we have a wide enough shot to see it?'” (The reason for the wide shot, by the way, was that so viewers could see all the equipment required to pump breast milk. That means the plastic cords, as well as the cooler that comes with the pump which has a special ice pack so you can nestle four bottles inside without spillage.)
True to his word that “our show beautifully depicts the struggle we all have as human beings to juggle our lives,” McKidd was happy to honor Drew’s request.
“We’ve been on the show so long, so we know who our characters are; it’s important to honor that,” McKidd told Glamour. “Sarah has been playing this part for eight years. It was really important to her, so I was like, ‘Of course, we’re going to do that.’ One of the big themes of our show is how do we make the best life with so many commitments when we’re all pulled in so many directions? In that moment, it really portrayed that well. It’s important to show that we’re all multitasking all the time, especially these doctors who are committed to their patients, but also their own lives going on, too. It’s nice to let the audience know that we’re all going through it together.”
McKidd’s compassion and understanding for Drew’s request only solidified why she’s thrilled to have a job on such an inclusive set like Grey’s. “On our set, all of the women feel free to speak up,” she explained. “It’s always been; I’ve always felt that way. I’ve always had a voice, and that’s been an important thing for me since the moment I had my first baby. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so hard! Let’s talk about how hard this is!’”
Another thing Drew loves about the show? Shonda Rhimes’ commitment to showing the character’s children on screen even if they aren’t directly involved in that episode’s storyline. “They show that daycare exists in the hospital, so you get this sense these doctors are working really hard—and they are able to go in and grab 10, 15 minutes [with their kids],” she said. “Look, parenthood is hard as it is; parenthood is super hard if you are at home and that is your primary focus. Parenthood is also super hard if you’re trying to juggle it with work, and these people are kicking ass and taking names at work. It’s neat to see that struggle.”
Added McKidd: “One of the director’s jobs is to tell these stories as beautifully as we can, as truthful as we can, and to make sure everyone is included in the discussions. I think a good director manages to do that and still be a strong leader.”
And for those viewers at home that did pick up on the brief scene, Drew said it was a very empowering moment for her and the show. “There were some people that tweeted about it and they were so grateful,” she told us. “They were like, ‘Yes!’ Even one of our wardrobe girls had a baby a year ago, and she said that was her favorite part of the whole episode. She was so grateful that it made it there on the screen. So, yeah, it was so cool.”