If you suspected there was a twist surrounding Mary McDonnell's upcoming three-episode Grey's Anatomy story arc, congratulations, you were right.
So says Michael Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly.
Turns out her character, a celebrated cardiac surgeon brought in to boost Seattle Grace's reputation beginning November 13, has Asperger's syndrome.
"Shonda Rhimes thought it would be interesting to have an incredibly skilled surgeon who, socially, is initially misunderstood," explains executive producer Betsy Beers of the autism-related disorder, which is characterized by eccentric behavior and a general social awkwardness.
What's Mary McDonnell's take on it? Let's find out in the Q&A below ...
EW: How does everyone react to your character, Dr. Virginia Dixon?
Mary McDonnell: In her first surgery she works primarily with Bailey and Karev, who are both sort of caught off guard by her difficulty in communication. They don't really know until the end of the episode that she has Asperger's. It's challenging for them. On the one hand, you're introducing a dramatic and comedic dynamic that people have to react to. On the other hand, you're bringing on a very dignified real human being with a disability that can be problematic for everyone.
EW: What's it like playing her?
Mary McDonnell: It's been a wonderful experience. Grey's has to do with social nuance and behavior between people, and this is a character who can't really relate to any of that. She comes in and brings a little bit of a different behavior to Seattle Grace.EW: How different are we talking? She's still going to hook up with one of her colleagues, right?
Mary McDonnell: [Laughs] So far, I have to tell you, I don't see any romance. That just makes me giggle. But she's just coming in for three episodes so far, so we'll see. That's the furthest thing from her mind.
EW: Might your stay be extended beyond the three episodes?
Mary McDonnell: There's always a possibility. I think with this character, there's a great collaboration to kind of experiment with her and with her situation and see the kind of effect it may have on the world of Grey's, because she's very atypical.
EW: Did Shonda create the role with you in mind?
Mary McDonnell: I don't know if it was created with me in mind, but I was told that Shonda had me on her mind as soon as she started thinking about it. She's put a great deal of trust in me, and it's part of why I wanted to do it. Because when someone hands you something this compelling and complicated and gives you good writing and also says, "I'm trusting you to find the nuance here," then you kind of go home and think, I'm lucky to be alive.