This season Grey's Anatomy is finally letting us learn more about the beautifully complex Dr. Stephanie Edwards... and fans (myself included) have been loving every second of it. Her heartbreaking backstory has only made us love her even more. But, what about the woman behind Stephanie... Jerrika Hinton? Let's just say, it didn't take long to find out Hinton's incredible talents know no bounds, and it's easy to see where Stephanie gets her strength.
The Reel Spin: This season we have been able to learn a bit more about Stephanie... what she went through as a child with the sickle cell trial and how that experience impacted her. You actually helped come up with the backstory, correct?
Jerrika Hinton: Yes, I did. The heart of that story was lifted from my cousin’s life — she spent the majority of her childhood in and out of hospitals due to strokes and other complications from her SCD. Once she was accepted into a clinical trial, we all had high hopes for her success and, thankfully, she’s now healthy and working in the medical field.
TRS: What was that experience like... pitching an idea to Shonda Rhimes?
Hinton: Overwhelming! I wanted to make Stephanie’s journey more intentional and find the deeply-rooted reason why she was consistently in the orbit of these innovative surgeries; so I came to the meeting with about three pitches and two focused on similar medical backstories. My main concern was finding her spine, so to speak. Every character on Grey’s has something they’re running from that informs the thing they’re running towards. Everyone has has a ghost. I was desperate to collaborate and put real energy towards discovering what or who Stephanie’s was and, fortunately, Shonda heard me.
TRS: Being on the other side of the camera isn't new to you though. You've produced, written, and directed other projects... as well as photographed amazing behind the scenes moments on the Grey's set. Do you enjoy being behind the lens?
Hinton: I love being behind the lens. Love it. One of the things I find people don’t understand is that most actors I know describe themselves as introverts — and it’s true! So for me, being behind the lens (or, if writing, behind the computer screen) allows me the freedom of being involved in a particular world while staying at a safe distance metaphorically. Acting is very immersive; it can be exhausting. But with photography I get to fall in love with my subjects and keep all my mushy bits safe! When writing and directing, I get to collaborate and build worlds for someone else to get dirty in! It’s great! The wallflower life is pretty damned sweet!!
TRS: In a recent episode your character was asking Ben (Jason George) for help understanding what guys want. If you could give Stephanie any tips on how to handle her love life, what advice would you give?
Hinton: Oh gosh. So much. First and foremost: keep your personal life out of that hospital, woman! I mean, she learned that lesson the hard way with Jackson [Jesse Williams], but it bears repeating! What happens at Grey Sloan stays at Grey Sloan, so don’t take the on-call room home!! More seriously, though, I would probably advise her to get to know herself better. She’s ambitious and knows what she wants out of her career, but does she know what she wants out of a partner? I’d challenge her to reframe the question. Ideally, it’s never about what another gender wants; the more useful question is always, “What do I want out of a partner? Out of a partnership?” Stephanie needs to get better at asking the bigger questions.
TRS: One relationship I've really enjoyed as a viewer is the mentor/mentee relationship Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) has with Stephanie... Why do you think they work so well together?
Hinton: They’re kindred spirits with an animalistic drive to prove others wrong. Contrarians who, deep down, just want to be seen and accepted. Also Cat and I love working together, so that bleeds into the characters [smiles].
TRS: Amelia gave us her now famous superhero pose... which made me think... doctors in some ways are a bit like real life superheroes. So my last question is kind of a fun one... if you could reimagine some of the cast as superheroes who would they be? Karev (Justin Chambers) is for sure Deadpool, right?
Hinton: [Laughs] Ok, let’s see with the originals: Mer [Ellen Pompeo] is obviously the Dark Knight of the hospital — dark, twisty and virtually un-killable. Webber [James Pickens, Jr.] would be Superman, because he’s just too damn good for this world. And people seem to take for granted how attractive he actually is! Bailey [Chandra Wilson] is Princess Diana of Themyscira AKA Wonder Woman BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY. Justin [Chambers] is Cyclops, because he can’t see what’s right in front of his face (Jolex took foreeeeeever!). Wow, we really need more black superheroes!
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Interview by Pamela Thomas