I watch a lot (!) of television shows and films, but Grey’s Anatomy stands alone in terms of shows that I’ve watched from its first episode and continue to passionately follow to this day. In case you were curious, I have a number of Grey’s characters that I’ve adored over the years, and a clear favourite of mine pre-interview (and even moreso post-interview) is Dr. Teddy Altman, played by the incredible Kim Raver. I had the opportunity to speak to Raver shortly after the final episode of Grey’s aired for the season (prematurely), and she was phenomenal in answering all of my in-depth questions about life inside Grey-Sloan, Seattle Fire, quarantine, her recent directing and producing work, and everything in between.
The following is a condensed and edited version of my phone interview with the multi-talented Kim Raver of Grey’s Anatomy.
Brief Take: Hi, Kim! How are you doing in these crazy times?
Kim Raver: I’m good. For some reason, and I was telling someone this the other day, the hecticness and craziness I felt while I was filming, I feel the same way, even though I’m quarantined. [laughs] I have two kids so, you know, we’re doing remote learning, homework, food, and cleaning, and I know, all amazing problems to have. I’m so grateful for the fact that everyone’s healthy so it’s definitely all good here.
BT: I’m sorry I missed your InstaLive Yoga session with Alex Dawson. How did it go?
KR: You know it’s funny because at first I was going to do press for the last two shows for Grey’s, and I was initially hesitant about doing press amidst the pandemic, but then I thought that it reminded me of 9/11 when I was doing Third Watch. I thought: “Well, I am an actor and an entertainer, and if I can try to help people get through this in whatever way I can, then that’s important.” So I kinda started this thing on Mondays at 10 in going Live. The first time I did it with Kara Elise, an amazing chef, well she’s more than a chef, she’s an amazing human being who asks these table questions where she gets people to think and share. She wanted to help people feel not so alone and figure out how to cook food for themselves. Then Yoga, that’s helping me, and Alex is another amazing human being. It’s good to keep that connectedness during this time. I think of my two kids and my dogs and my husband, and some of my friends are really alone. So I just thought, “maybe this could help”. I couldn’t believe that during the Yoga Live thing, I had people say “I’m in India, this is so amazing!” and “I’m in Minnesota”, “I’m in Germany”. One woman said “I’ve never done a Yoga class. I just bought a Yoga DVD.” So I just feel like it’s helping people feel less alone. There was this one thing that this one girl wrote on the Live feed, she said “I’m really struggling. I’m alone and I’m really struggling.” So I think for people where I might be a familiar face to them, to have resources that I have, it feels good to share those things. It’s just an amazing way to feel interconnected globally, with India and everywhere else that people were tuning in from, we’re all going through this crisis together. It’s really reassuring to know that we’re all trying to find solutions. At my kids’ school, at the beginning of the year they have this theme of “better together” and it’s never been more timely than now.
BT: Let’s talk about Teddy on Grey’s. Krista Vernoff said recently that Teddy’s storyline is the one she’s most disappointed got cut short this season. How do you feel about everything that transpired between Teddy, Owen, and Tom?
KR: Well, I mean first off, look, I am very aware that Teddy is in a very bad… [trails off] I love that Krista said that because I always tell Krista that I totally trust wherever we’re going to go with it because I always know that they’ll bring it full circle. So I think I’m interpreting what she’s saying is that she wasn’t able to give Teddy that moment for her to find her way to a clearer place. But I have to say, for an actor to be able to dive into this very juicy, layered…she’s in a really messed up place. I know it’s really frustrating for the fans and they’re really angry, and I totally get it. I’m totally on their side! I’m totally throwing things at the TV as well! But it’s also what makes her so human. She is messed up and we all have so many different layers. What better thing for a series than to show, through Teddy, that we’re all fucked up and that she’s human. She’s trying to find her way and unfortunately it’s hurting a lot of people along the way. So yeah, it’s hard not having be able to show the beautiful way of her emerging out of this darkness. But I think it gives us so much for season 17 and I’m so excited to really dive in. We’ll be able to start in that place and really have her dig deep and figure out what’s going on with her. I think it’s really interesting because Teddy has always been a caregiver and I think that’s been one of the ways that she hasn’t dealt with her own PTSD, her own trauma. If you think about her with Henry, she fell in love with this guy who was dying and didn’t have insurance, so she took care of him. Then Teddy was in love with Owen while he wasn’t available. So I think the fact that Teddy has been in love with unavailable people…even Allison, one of the loves of her life, was unavailable. I think that’ll be an amazing storyline to dive into. So I just want to say to the fans to be patient and trust Grey’s Anatomy and Krista and know that we’ll find a beautiful storyline for Teddy. But we do have to wait a little bit longer.
BT: Where do you hope Teddy goes from here?
KR: I really would love to see her process of acknowledging…I don’t think she’s in that aware state. So I’d love to see her come out the other side. I think it’ll be beautiful to watch her for once do the work on herself, instead of doing the work on other people in making them better and taking care of them. She’s going to have to really make amends and forgiveness is going to be a really big thing for her, and finding forgiveness for others. But if you think about it, she’s lost her mother, her father, one of the loves of her life, the other love of her life, and now she’s with two amazing men. Even Cristina, one of her closest friends and colleagues, she also lost in a way. So I’d love to see the journey of Teddy and how is that going to manifest itself. I’m so excited because I think that’s one of the many things Krista and Shonda do so well is to show the messy evolution of love and self-love and relationship love, so I think season 17 is going to be amazing.
BT: I love the moments between Teddy and Maggie, I have to tell you. What’s it like working with Kelly McCreary?
KR: It’s so great because we’re both cardiothoracic surgeons and we work together but not a lot. Those scenes are just a lot of fun. She’s just so smart, fun, generous, lovely person so we really had a great time working together.
BT: During this social distancing time I’m really loving all of the Debbie Allen dance videos that she’s been doing. What’s it been like working with her as a scene partner and director?
KR: She’s extraordinary. I feel so lucky every day. She’s someone who’s able to do so much, it’s incredible. She manages to do everything so well fully, you know? She has an incredible dance company, she’s directing, she’s producing, she’s acting, and she has her children and her children’s children, and she’s very present for all of them, and very present for all of us. She has such an incredible energy and a creative energy. She’s just so inspiring. I feel so lucky to have her as a friend and mentor and colleague. She’s just so positive too. She reminds me of when I was studying in a theatre company at age 13 and there’s a discipline. She has a discipline about her but also an exuberance of loving life and loving people. So to be able to work together is such a gift.
BT: Do you have a favourite moment from this season, as a performer?
KR: I do love going in to work every day but I think the flashback stuff for me was a really exciting moment because I felt like there was so much story to be told on Teddy which informs so much of what her behaviour is today. It was so amazing in terms of the script, the directing, we have such amazing directors, but to be able to do the flashback and do the big reveal on Teddy’s relationship with Allison was really a fine moment in season 16.
BT: What was it like working on the Station 19 set?
KR: That was fabulous. It’s so interesting because it’s like part of the family but who you don’t know very well, you know? You know some of the people because some of the people migrated from Grey’s Anatomy over there, so it’s like I’ve got some close family members there and then also some cousins that you’ve heard of or really don’t know but get to know. And it runs so well. I love going over there because it’s a similar energy to Grey’s but different. I just had so much fun. Also Tom Verica directed the episode, the first one I did out there, and we worked together years ago. We worked together on a show called The Nine, so it was fun to see him again. He’s also worked on Grey’s a ton. Also Jason George, who we all know from Grey’s, was there. So it’s like an extended family. Also it’s great to be doing a different show but the same character, so it’s very fun to go back and forth.
BT: You were mentioning all the metaphorical hats that Debbie Allen wears, but you executive produced three TV movies that came out last year. Tell me about your experience executive producing and the accomplishments you’re most proud of from that experience?
KR: Thank you! I loved it. I have to give credit to being part of the Shondaland family, with Krista and also Debbie Allen because it’s that thing in the medical world of “see one, do one”, so when you see so many women as mentors around you, all of a sudden you think, “oh, it’s possible!”. On Grey’s, there are so many women doing extraordinary work in editing and camera operating and sound and directing, so it really inspired me. My husband and I and a couple of other people, we found this book and we were able to turn it into movies. It was every step of the way – developing them, and then my husband and I directed one together – and that was such an incredible experience. I felt like I was able to take everything I had as an actor over my entire career, and with the excitement of doing something new, of directing for the first time, and being able to translate that through my acting eye into a new medium. I hope to do that again. Lifetime has been so incredibly supportive – I’m producing another thing with my husband with them this year. It’s just been great being able to exercise a whole different muscle and yet with the experience that I have as an actor.
BT: When I was discussing with people that I’d be interviewing you, every person had a different performance of yours that they adored. Do you find that you get fan reactions from a wide spectrum of your projects?
KR: That’s so great. I have to say that sometimes I don’t realize the expanse of stuff like, exactly what you’re saying, “oh you’re so great!”, where they’re so complimentary and kind but then it’s like “from Third Watch!”, so from way back. Or 24 a lot too. I’m just so grateful and I feel so lucky. As an actor, it’s difficult to break out and find a career, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to play so many amazing characters in amazing shows. You know 24 was such an extraordinary experience. Working with Kiefer Sutherland, our working relationship was just so amazing. He was another reason I got into producing. I saw that he produced and learned from him. He’s just such a loyal and professional person. That experience with that show really broke new ground, before binge TV was binge TV, you know? And Third Watch with John Wells, the TV that he’s created is just incredible. And then there’s so many different things, like Lipstick Jungle, I kind of love all the different women that I’ve had the chance to play. So thank you for that. I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to play so many different women with so many extraordinary writers, directors, and actors.
BT: Grey’s was set to roll cameras on season 17 in July. Do you know if that’s still happening?
KR: I don’t know. I think it’s a wait and see how we move forward in the industry. I know Shonda and Krista and the rest of the family, and the biggest thing is “how do we move forward and keep everyone healthy and safe?”. So I don’t know the answer to that. I know that they’re taking the time to prepare and get everything ready, and then we’re all watching the news in terms of the science and numbers, and that’ll tell us. I’m ready! [laughs] We’re all ready and excited.
Grey’s Anatomy season 17 will return in the Fall on ABC and CTV