Mary McDonnell Speaks on Grey's Anatomy Role

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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 ...

Mary McDonnell on Grey's Anatomy

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.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


As someone with Asperger's and OCD, I am glad that they are giving this issue some prominence.


Me thinks dat grey's has a cardio attendings curse lyk the defence agnst da dark arts in harry cardio surgeon seems 2 stay in sgh 4 suks..damn u abc!! Homophobic bigots..


Awww, I liked Hahn. But I'm still glad Mary's joining!


How effing homophobic. You're punishing an actress because the writers mishandled the relationship? Brooke doesn't deserve to lose her job, the writer who suggested that Callie go to Mark for advice needs to be let go! I think I may have to stop watching Grey's. I can't support a show/network that let's homophobia win.


Yep. ABC is cutting Brooke from the show because America can't handle the gay relationship. Stupid bullsh!t if you ask me. I'm disgusted right now. Sara Ramirez will more than likely quit the show now.


I just saw on Entertainment Weekly's website...that Brooke Smith (Erica Hahn) has been "let go" from Grey's. Maybe that's why they are bringing in this new cardio surgeon?? The article, well its an interview with Brooke, says that she thinks it was ABC's decision...not Shonda Rimes' decision to let her go. And this Thursday's (Nov. 6) episode is her last....


I'm with Gemma, what about Erica being a top Cardio Surgeon and head of cardio at Seattle Grace. Wonder what this means in terms of Brooke Smith's character Erica?? Lots of drama no doubt...


When I heard she was coming, I thought she was going to play Derek's mother since she played Carter's mother on ER haha...but honestly, this character seems better. I can't wait to see how she fits in SGH. She is the only one (of the many many new characters) that I'm excited to see. Maybe we can dump Sadie and make Mary stay more episodes??




I have Asperger's Syndrome too. I can't wait to see this character!


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)

Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time. And now that I'm finally me again, I can't. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me because when you asked me to ignore Teddy's page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.