When Private Practice returns Tuesday, it marks the start of the sixth season that showrunner Shonda Rhimes describes as consisting of a "bunch of little movies," with every episode completely different.
"A lot of what we're doing is playing around with points of view," Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. "We have an that is an all Taye Diggs episode that's a fascinating, different look at the show and a look at this life and who he is as a character."
With the future of the California-set medical drama up in the air beyond its initial 13-episode, Rhimes said she's approaching the season as a "no-holds-barred" attitude, noting that every hour will serve as an out-of-the-box installment of the series. "We're playing almost as if we're doing it as a bunch of little movies vs. a template that you follow," she said. "You see some surprising things from our characters and you see our characters in ways you haven't seen them before."
With that approach in mind, THR quizzed the cast about what types of "event"-type episodes they'd like to take a stab at: A silent episode a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Hush"? A musical taking advantage of former Rent star Diggs and his talented wife, Idina Menzel? Soap opera-style natural disasters? Superheroes? The cast is down for all of it -- and more.
"I always love a good natural disaster," said star Kate Walsh (Addison), who will exit the series after this year's initial 13 with Rhimes debating the show's future beyond that. "I love that we're doing event episodes that involves the whole cast and I always love that because it has a rhythm and intensity with a lot urgency, almost like an action movie. Then we're doing these episodes that follow one character and their particular plight or journey. It's intense and life and death -- literally."
Co-star Benjamin Bratt, whose Jake along with Diggs' Sam, are vying for Addison's affections, says he'd like to see the series take advantage of its multi-talented cast. "I'd love to see a musical version of Private Practice for one hour if for no other reason than to see Taye Diggs dance and sing," Bratt said. Added Diggs: "I'm down! If Idina has time in her busy schedule, that would be great."
KaDee Strickland (Charlotte), meanwhile, has more lofty goals for her dream episode. "I'd like to fly in an episode, to personally fly and be airborne, like a superhero with my lab coat blowing behind me!" Strickland's on-screen husband Paul Adelstein (Cooper), meanwhile, has ideas that are more in-line for Cooper, a pediatrician: "I want to perform some surgeries, but I don't think that's in the cards," he said, noting he'd be down to do a silent episode. Co-star Caterina Scorsone hopes Private takes a page from Grey's Anatomy. "I like the alternate reality scenario they had on Grey's last year; it's a fun way to mix it up for everybody," she said.
As for what will fly (pardon the pun!) Rhimes noted that while she's always wanted to do a silent episode, that -- and as well as a musical -- aren't something the writers have talked about. "We have a lot of Broadway talent, which is really nice but we're not planning a musical episode," she noted. And while the plane crash featured on Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy -- of which Private is a spinoff -- will affect the Seaside Wellness docs, there aren't any crossovers in the cards as of yet, Rhimes noted.
As for what could be in the cards, Rhimes said there could be a fairy tale ending to cap off Addison's journey. "With Addision's decision [between Jake and Sam], you are going to see what she chose when we start the show and see what direction we've taken -- and possibly we could be marching toward a wedding," the always cryptic Rhimes said. "But possibly not, I haven't actually decided yet."