Camilla Luddington joined Grey's Anatomy in its ninth season. Now, more than 200 episodes later, it's safe to say she's seen Jo through many, many twists and turns. But season 18 finds Jo trying out a few things for the first time: She's switched her specialty to OB, she's a mom — and she's a blonde!
EW spoke to Luddington about Jo's journey and the story behind her new 'do.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You've played Jo for so long and seen her through so many ups and downs. What was your reaction when they told you she was going to become a mom?
CAMILLA LUDDINGTON: This is my 10th season on the show, so I've wanted a lot of things for Jo, like finding out about her past, and one of the things I always wanted was for her to have her own family. I felt like it was really important to her. When they told me that she was going to be a mom, the first thing I said was, "With who?! She's not seeing anyone. How is this happening?"
Initially, I was thinking maybe she's going to have a donor. But when they told me the story I thought it was just so beautiful. I was happy she did get to become a mom, and I think it really influenced her wanting to be an OB and deliver babies. This part of her journey with [her new child] Luna, I love it so much for her. It's crazy and she's tired, but I think she's finding so much joy every day in being a mom.
ABC/Eric McCandless Jake Borelli and Camilla Luddington on 'Grey's Anatomy'
It also feels like, especially after watching her get a happy ending with Alex (Justin Chambers) only to have him leave her, fans have been waiting for her to have something like this.
Yes, and breakups are really difficult, but what I like about this story is that life is unpredictable like that, and people do leave people, and they do breakup, and your original idea of where you think your life is going to go sometimes takes a hard left turn. There's probably a lot of people who watched those seasons where she was left and could maybe relate to a breakup like that and having to reassess what is important. Which is what she did: How can I find my happiness without this person being around? I think it's been an important story to show.
It occurred to me when I was watching the last episode that it feels like OB is a specialty we haven't seen a lot of, compared to the others at least.
I agree with you! It's funny because I gave birth to my son last year and know Jo finds a lot of joy in delivering babies, but I, Camilla, get so excited walking into the birthing rooms! The joy you're seeing in Jo is also mine. I feel like I congratulate the actors. I'm like, "Oh my god, you're having a baby today. This is so exciting!" [Laughs] I myself am finding a lot of joy. To your point, it feels fresh and new. And it's also fun to see her have to start over. She's back in the residents' lounge.
Will we see her learning from Addison (Kate Walsh) at all, or is it mostly Carina (Stefania Spampinato)?
Right now, it's really Carina. I don't know what the writers are planning in the future. There are so many episodes to go that we haven't read, so as of right now it's what you're seeing, which is Carina.
I loved that scene where Jo was falling asleep on a bench outside the hospital.
You know what's great about this? Luna's a year old and I have a 1-year-old too. During filming I am so tired because he is teething and she's teething, and so what you're seeing is just my life basically. [Laughs] They don't need to make me look tired — I come in looking like I've never slept. It's this parallel happening, so [with] her falling asleep on the bench I was like, "I'm getting kind of tired just filming this." I'm going full method this season.
Let's talk hair. Did this change come from you or the show?
I wanted to change it. During hiatus I always change my hair and then I have to go back. I went a little bit blonder this time and was thinking, "I feel like Jo needs a change. She's been through a divorce and now she has a baby." There's a lot of times in my life when I'm going through different seasons where it's reflected in the way I look. I might dress different, or I might change my hair.
I called Krista Vernoff, our showrunner, and said, "Is it okay if I keep my blonder hair?" I sent her a photo and she said, "If you're gonna do it, I want you to go platinum." And I was like, "Perfect! Done." I said, "Can I cut it short?" and she said, "Yes, we'll write it in." So they wrote it in that she left bleach on her hair for way too long and fried it. But I like it for her right now. I get her wanting to feel a little bit different.
What has surprised you about playing this character for so long?
It isn't about keeping it interesting and new, because every single season it's really exciting. The writers always have storylines that are so surprising and change everything. There's no element of, "Ugh, how do I keep this interesting for myself?" Actually, when you sit with a character for this long, things in their life start to parallel with yours. When I started off, I was dating my now husband. Now I'm married and have children and feel more settled in my career, and Jo is excelling in her career and having kids. It's like growing with a buddy. That's the surprising part of the experience, when you sit with somebody for that long. You're so invested.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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