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Surprise cancellation hits ‘Station 19' cast before 100th episode

Cast members were preparing to celebrate their 100th episode when they learned of the cancellation


The cast, crew and creative team behind “Station 19" gathered on set in Los Angeles to commemorate 100 episodes of the high-action drama.


By Lauren Piester
Variety Entertainment News Service

LOS ANGELES — “Station 19" is about to hit a huge milestone, but it’s bittersweet.

Just three days into production on Season 7 of the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff, as plans for a celebratory 100th episode were beginning to develop, new showrunners Peter Paige and Zoanne Clack learned that the show had been canceled. Season 7 would be its last, tasking them with not only ushering the show into a new era, but also to a satisfying ending. They were not prepared.

“I was sitting on the floor in my underwear, writing,” Paige tells Variety. Clack adds, “I was on a panel in front of 100 people getting constant phone calls, trying to play it off. I didn’t hear what the actual news was until after the panel.”

“Station 19" premiered in March 2018, midway through Season 14 of “Grey’s Anatomy.” A backdoor pilot introduced Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) to her firefighting equivalent Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz), but the thread between the two shows was Ben Warren (Jason George), the career-hopping husband of Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson). Being a surgeon was no longer satisfying to him, so he decided to try firefighting. In Seattle, firefighters are also certified paramedics, meaning his medical training wouldn’t go to waste, but he would be starting from the bottom of the ladder, so to speak.

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Andy, meanwhile, had a legacy to live up to. Her father Pruitt (Miguel Sandoval) was the captain of “Station 19,” and while he loved his daughter, he was tough on her. His death in Season 3 propelled her ambitions: she would eventually become captain, earning that job the right way, with no special favors. Finally, in the Season 6 finale, she received the new title, just in time to help her own team deal with a dance floor collapsing underneath them, crushing friends and enemies alike. Her promotion was such an important moment for the series that Clack and Paige almost saved it for the upcoming 100th episode, along with a few other wild ideas.

“We have two characters who are half-Korean, and we talked about taking the show to Korea,” Paige says. “Frankly, because of the strikes and the timelines, we didn’t have the idea in enough time to make it happen … but then we cooked up something that I think is even better.”

With the milestone episode, “we wanted to really honor the show and the ambiance of the show, and everything around it,” Clack adds. “We had to really pump up our thinking and think outside the box a bit more.”

The episode airing April 11 is full of both celebrations and challenges and brings things full circle, says Ortiz. She’s so grateful to have made it to 100, but it’s a number that also makes her feel “a little old.” Her knees and her back aren’t the same as they once were, because, while the fires might not be real, the gear is still heavy -- a constant reminder that being a firefighter is a physically demanding job, and not all can handle or survive it. This is especially true on the show, where everybody risks their life practically every time they go to work.

While Andy hasn’t quite reached Meredith Grey levels of trauma, she’s certainly been through it. Her best friend died, then her father died, and her marriage fell apart due to addiction. Plus, she discovered her “dead” mother was actually not dead. Much of what she’s dealt with is classic melodrama, but some of it has hit Ortiz hard -- especially since she lost her mother in 2019.

“It was somewhat of a cathartic experience, having to grieve my mother and not only be given the time to process it, but also be allowed to work through my character as her mom comes back into her life and [she deals] with the loss of her dad,” Ortiz says. “It definitely has helped make it easier. I am forever grateful to our writers and our showrunners past and present who have made the effort to dig deep into our personal lives so that the characters can come more to life.”

Ortiz, Paige and Clack agree that “Station 19" is at its best when it’s as authentic as possible. None of the stars have ever done any real firefighting, but they all know what it’s like to live in the world the show is trying to portray.

“People think they’re watching a fire show,” Paige says. “But they’re really watching a show about women and Black, brown and queer people navigating systems that aren’t necessarily set up for them to succeed.”

[RELATED: Why fire service TV shows matter: Reflecting diversity, authenticity and professionalism]

Clack, who has worked on and around “Grey’s Anatomy” as a producer and medical consultant since 2006, has always made it her mission to seamlessly fold social justice issues and public health messages into the show’s fabric, so they are “very much entrenched into the entertainment of the show, and not finger-wagging or telling people what they need to think.”

“Station 19" has weathered many ups and downs over the years as showrunners and actors have come and gone, but Ortiz considers the seismic events of 2020 -- the global health pandemic and death of George Floyd -- to be a turning point. The whole world’s view of frontline workers changed, and so did the show.

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In Season 5, then-executive producer Krista Vernoff introduced both real-world developments “into our storyline, and it allowed all the actors a chance to speak up about their identity,” Ortiz says. “This was an opportunity that we never really had in the past, and so because our show is one of the most diverse shows out there, we had a bunch of different experiences and opinions, and it opened up so many more conversations.”

For the first time, Ortiz felt like she could really represent her Latin culture in a way she hadn’t been able to before, connecting her and her fellow castmates to their characters in a whole new way.

“I think because we lived it, that made us that much more grateful for what we had,” she says.

Clack points out that identity is the key to not only “Station 19,” but the ongoing episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” the show that quietly birthed it and recently returned for its 20th season.

“In the first few seasons, it was enough for viewers to see a Black chief of surgery or a Black cardiothoracic surgeon, a Latina orthopedic surgeon, and they just lived their lives being what they were,” she says. “But as society has progressed and as ‘Grey’s’ has progressed, it’s become more of what their experience is as a person of color and how does that reflect in how they treat people or manage their lives.”

The centennial episode of “Station 19" will air soon, but the show’s legacy will live beyond that as the little fire engine that could.

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