Another major character returned to Grey's Anatomy on Thursday (December 3). Ever since Patrick Dempsey revived his role of Derek Sheperd in the medical drama's seventeenth season premiere, fans have been speculating whether any other for characters would be visiting Meredith Grey on that dream-like beach. In the most recent episode, Meredith was reunited her old friend George O'Malley, played by T.R. Knight, who passed away in the season five finale.
Knight and Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff chatted about George's return to the show in Deadline, revealing how this special episode helped give Knight closure. According to Vernoff, George was the first character she thought about bringing back even though McDreamy was the one to initially greet Meredith in her COVID-19 dreamscape. As she brainstormed ideas for the current season, Vernoff said she could picture "Meredith walking with her feet in the water with George."
"That was the first image that came to me, and the joy that filled me up when it came, I believe, is translated on screen, and I believe we have given many millions of fans that moment of pure joy." she continued. "Right now in our lives, in this pandemic, pure joy is rare, and so I'm so grateful to T.R. for coming and playing, and offering that to everyone, because I think it's meaningful."
Once Vernoff told Ellen Pompeo about her idea to bring George back, the actress suggested bringing back Dempsey, as well. "Ellen and T.R. are close, and George and T.R. were both always favorites of mine, and so he was my first idea of, as a fan, who do I want to see again?" Vernoff added. "I wanted to see George, so that's where it started."
Knight, who played George for the show's first five seasons, wasn't just happy to revisit his character, but his former coworkers, as well. He told Vernoff he was "still trying to put into words how profound the experience was for me."
"What I loved about what Krista did with George was, because Meredith is having this vision, for lack of a better word, of who George would be," Knight continued. "George is a very complicated person, and that's what made him such an amazing pleasure to play, but Meredith is seeing the best of George: She's seeing his humor, his kindness, his generosity, and in this brief moment that you get to see him, it's such a great way to remember him."
When Vernoff asked if coming back to the show gave Knight any closure surrounding his original run on the show, Knight said: "What was interesting is something my husband, who is much smarter than me, and OK, granted that's a low bar, said. We were talking about that idea of closure, and he was saying that sometimes closure's shutting a door, and sometimes it's revisiting a familiar room and finding what brought you joy. And it just hit me."
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.