Grey's Anatomy Q&A: Jesse Williams on Becoming the New Boss

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Seattle Grace is about to meet the new boss.

Will that mean smooth sailing under new management? I recently spoke with Jesse Williams, who plays Jackson Avery, about his latest leadership role, how it will affect Jackson's relationships and what's in store for tonight's new episode, "Transplant Wasteland."

Check out clips of Jackson in action as the new boss and read on for excerpts from our exclusive Q&A...

Avery on Grey's

So big things happening for Jackson. Did you find out you were going to be hospital boss when you read the script or were you told well in advance?

It was really funny actually because I found out at the table read, at the end of the table read, as I was reading the line. I literally found out at the last possible time in front of the entire cast and crew. I think my face in the moment of getting that news with Debbie Allen [who plays Catherine Avery] sitting across from me at the table was kind of probably far more perfect than when we actually shot it.

How will Jackson handle being the boss?

I think it's gonna be a bit of a haul. He's gonna slip. He's gonna stumble. He's gonna make a mess. He's gonna have to learn to be motivated by something different than the pressure of the job or his bitterness towards his mom or putting him in a position that he absolutely didn't want to be in. It's not a job he ever thought about or wanted to have. He came here to be a surgeon and he fought hard to be respected a surgeon, passing his boards and moving up the ladder, and all of a sudden, his mom yanks the rug out from underneath him and gives him a far more daunting, far more high-profile intimidating job that makes more enemies than friends. It's a lot for him, so he'll eventually get some footing, but it's not gonna be easy and it's not gonna be easy on his relationships.

It's gonna cause a lot of tension particular with the Chief of Surgery, Owen Hunt. You got two alpha guys in impressive positions that either feels like there's not room for both of them. It's also room for a lot of misunderstanding. This is a gossipy hospital and word travels fast, so I think you're gonna see some early tension between Hunt and Jackson, as well as Dr. Webber. I think he would like to have or invest a decent relationship with Jackson because he has a lot of wisdom, but also he plans to be around my mom for a while, so he might as well not be my enemy.

Does Jackson have any allies in the new position?

Well, I don't know if he has any to be honest. He's not somebody who's gonna track down a shoulder to cry on. He's not like some of the other characters in that way, and he also doesn't know them well enough to pull them aside. He connects with Meredith about having a famous parent or family, but he keeps things pretty close to the vest. You usually find things about Jackson when somebody blurts it out and embarrasses him. If you notice over the years, he very rarely volunteers his own information. He's a very kind of private guy. He deals with a lot of this alone, and I think eventually he'll have to accept some of the wisdom that Dr. Webber is trying to impart to him. You can't be bitter that the guy has a relationship with your mom forever.

How will his relationship with Stephanie the intern change?

I think some of that remains to be seen because that's a relationship that is fun, light, and no strings attached. When you're dealing with a lot of intense pressure, people tend to either lean on a shoulder they know really well to help pull them out of it, or something that's so frivolous or trivial that it's the equivalent of drinking in order to help take your mind off it. I think for her she might kind of be like his sexual alcohol, you know, to be there. (Oh god, I just started something.) That's his default kind of go to person. She's sweet. She's funny. They aren't bogged down by these big notions of each other. It's a little bit lighter for him, and I think that's terrific, but none of that will provide an answer without him doing the hard work himself and getting out ahead of it.

With Stephanie being the lighter side, will that change things or even rekindle the spark with April?

I think there's a lot of room for that as we head towards the end of the season. It's unfinished business with Jackson and April. They know each other and care more about each other than anybody else in the hospital. She still comes to me when she has trouble, I mean, she came to me about having sex with her new boyfriend. We have very few walls between us and that's very uncommon for exes to be able to do that with that tact and a little bit of grace. I think we have our own set of rules. We don't follow traditional relationship rules. Certainly because we are able to get close to each other, how do you do that without sexual tension? How do you do that without almost hooking up? How long can you almost hook up without actually doing it? At what point is doing that now cheating on somebody else, right, like you're dragging other people into your muck. It's a slippery slope that they're gonna have to deal with and come to a conclusion about how the hell they got to there in the first place. I think April's version of how they got there is probably far different than Jackson's. They're gonna have to have it out and that could be sexually or with a horrible argument in front of everybody. It could be really bad or wonderful peak at the end of the season.

What have been your favorite type of scenes to film: working cases as a doctor, the more romantic relationship scenes, or the comedic moments?

The comedic stuff. We actually just finished a pretty funny moment in a scene today. I love trying to find some comedy, some lightheartedness, or kind of ad-libbed energy in as many scenes as we can, and it also contributes to the environment on set. There's really a lot of funny actors on set, Jim Pickens [who plays Richard Webber], Patrick Dempsey [who plays Derek Shepherd], Jessica Capshaw [who plays Arizona Robbins].

We've got a lot of really funny people, so I go for the comedy. I also prefer building on real relationships, the long real scenes, a couple pages of dealing with an issue. I think Cristina and Owen have wonderful scenes together because A) they know each other so well, but they can have a conversation with a beginning, middle and end. For that reason, I really enjoy my scenes with Jackson and April because the same exact reason. We open the can and kind of deal with the whole thing. It's a little more fun than the larger group ones, which are fun to shoot because we're having fun on set, but dramatically I look for a little more meat on the bone.

What can you tease about tonight's all new episode?

We're coming right in after you saw Jackson's face when he was told he got the incredible job. I think we're a week later, the hospital is changing, and we're under new management. Jackson is getting hit with problem after problem, while getting knocked down a flight of stairs. It's just madness. Because he's having trouble, it validates everybody's fear that he can't handle it. So, you've got a little power surge with the other board members who are my fellow cast mates from the plane crash. They pick up the scent. They smell blood. It becomes a real problem area both for them, we're dealing with real issues, aside from Jackson's problems, but also he's either gonna get rolled over or he's got to pull out in front of that. He's gonna need a little help from that.

Watch Jesse Williams lead the team on an all new Grey's Anatomy tonight at 9/8c on ABC.

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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Grey's Anatomy Quotes

MEREDITH: "You don't get to call me a whore. When I met you, I thought I had found the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I was done! All the boys and all the bars and all the obvious daddy issues, who cares? I was done. You left me. You chose Addison. I'm all glued back together now. I make no apologies for how I chose to repair what you broke. You don't get to call me a whore."
DEREK: "This thing with us is finished. It's over."
MEREDITH: "Finally."
DEREK: "Yeah, it's done."
MEREDITH: "It is done."

Arizona: Oh my God! I mean, I understand why you're into her. She's hot. Wait, she likes you?
Nathan: What? I mean, I'm going to try not to be offended at that.
Arizona: No, no, no. It's just that Derek was, Derek was epic for her. They were the great love story. I mean, that girl's heart beat for Derek Shepherd. It just, it never occurred to me that she would ever be with anyone else. He was perfect. He was everything. That man turned her world. It, I spooked you. Don't be spooked.