Since he was introduced as Seattle Grace's Chief of Surgery, Dr. Richard Webber, during the very first episode, James Pickens, Jr., has been one of the most steady and the most unheralded members of the dynamic Grey's Anatomy cast.
Our friends at BuddyTV recently sat down with James Pickens, Jr., for an exclusive interview in which he talks about his character and the show. We'll start off with the beginning of their chat before linking over to Buddy for the full interview ...
Q: My first question is about the WGA strike. Production has stopped on the set, and how many episodes of Grey's Anatomy are there going to be left?
James Pickens, Jr.: Well, we shot 11, and I think they bought 22 or 23, so do the math and I guess that's 11 or 12 left to shoot.
Q: Do you have any idea what might happen with this?
James Pickens, Jr.: At this point I don't think anybody knows. They went back to the bargaining table last Monday, and they talked until Thursday. The producers came back with a proposal that was rejected by the writers, but that's usually kind of par for the course when you're talking negotiations. They suspended talks but then they'll go back to the table after that, so I guess the positive note on this is just the fact that they are talking. A proposal has been presented, it wasn't what the writers wanted, and that's okay, so they can go back and forth now. We'll see what happens with it, but they are talking, so that's a good sign at this point.
Q: Let's talk about your character now, Dr. Richard Webber. You get to show a lot of depth in your portrayal of the Chief because you're kind of the father figure of the other doctors, but lately you're also starting to loosen up.
James Pickens, Jr., with his wife of 23 years, Gina Pickens.
James Pickens, Jr.: I'm so grateful to Shonda Rhimes, our creator and our head writer, and the rest of the writers as well. I think they've done a great job in terms of fleshing out this character. My character and characters like him are usually shown in just one light, that of an authoritative figure who pretty much doles out orders and you do them or else you suffer the consequences. But I think last season they really started to flesh this character out with his problems, obviously his deteriorating marriage, his thoughts of retiring and trying to fix that. We got a chance to see the human side of him ...Obviously now he's moved on to very separate land and is living out in a dinky trailer now. He's kind of reinventing his life at this point. It's uncomfortable, and it's something he hasn't had to deal with for a long time because he was in a marriage for quite a few years where mostly everything was done for him. Because he put the job first, he has had to pay the price for neglecting his life in a lot of ways. Now we see him back out into the deep water here, trying to navigate, tread water, and swim, or whatever he's trying to do. It's just really interesting to watch him try and make some sense of his life right now.
Q: You have had some scenes in which you go out into the wild with the other guys. Do you prefer those kinds of scenes to the ones that are shot in the hospital?
James Pickens, Jr.: Yeah, it's good to get out of the hospital from time to time, just because it's good to get out of there and see something else. Then it's also the aspect of seeing him, especially with Derek and McSteamy's character, Mark Sloan's character, these two single men trying to guide him along his way in this scary prospect of having to go out and date again. The three of them together is kind of this comedy of errors, because they're all in the same boat in terms of kind of floundering emotionally and looking for something to hold on to that's concrete and that makes sense to them. It's a scary proposition for all three of them, so it also makes for really humorous anecdotes and scenarios. I'm glad they're doing some of that, and it shows the chief in a lighter light too, which is always fun.
Q: Yeah, for sure. Do you have a favorite episode you've made so far?
James Pickens, Jr.: I would imagine the code black episode, the two-parter, the bomb episode - "It's The End of the World ... (As We Know It)" - is one of my favorites. It had everything, and I thought it was some really good television.
Q: Yeah, that was one of my favorites too.
James Pickens, Jr.: Well, this one coming up is really good too. The two-parter. The first part ("Crash Into Me, Part I") aired the Thursday before last, and we interrupted it with a repeat last Thursday, now the second part of that is going to be aired this coming Thursday. I think that's going to be a very good one.
Continue reading BuddyTV's interview with James Pickens, Jr. here ...