'Grey's Anatomy' Star Giacomo Gianniotti Reveals Season 17 to Kick off a 'Month and a Half Into COVID' Pandemic

The Grey's Anatomy team will not be satisfied with just providing fans with escapist entertainment whenever it finally returns for its 17th season on ABC. Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Dr. Andre DeLuca on the long-running medical drama, shared more details on who the show plans to handle the coronavirus pandemic at Grey Sloan. Executive producer Krista Vernoff previously confirmed that the new season will heavily focus on COVID-19 and its impact on Seattle, where the show is set.

The new season will pick up about a "month and a half" into the coronavirus pandemic, Gianniotti told Entertainment Tonight. This means the show will not pick up immediately after the makeshift Season 16 finale, but Gianniotti said there might be some flashbacks. "We might have some flashbacks," the actor, who noted he has not seen any of the new scripts yet, said. "We might have some things where we're referencing last season, just to have context leading up. But we are going to have a little leap when we start this season in terms of time. We're not picking up right where we left off."

Grey's Anatomy Season 16 wound up with only 21 episodes, four less than Season 15, due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down all production in Hollywood in mid-March. This meant the season ended with Gianniotti's DeLuca having a bipolar episode after he diagnosed Richard Webber's (James Pickens Jr.) condition and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) took him home. Despite his personal challenges, Gianniotti believes DeLuca would handle the coronavirus pandemic well. "I think he thrives in chaos and he certainly proved that in past seasons that when there's a lot going on, he steps up," the actor told ET. He called the pandemic a "stressful situation," but he thinks DeLuca can "really shine and then thrive."

Giannoiotti said the Grey's producers hope to start cameras rolling next week, but noted nothing is scheduled. He praised producers for making sure the cast and crew will be kept safe in the "new" world. "There's a learning curve for any show. We're uniquely lucky that we get to wear PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] because we play doctors, so for other shows that aren't in the doctor world I really feel for them because that's an added challenge that they have to face," he said. "But I'm really hoping that we can figure it out and keep producing this amazing show that so many fans love to watch."

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Gianniotti also teased possible references to the Black Lives Matter movement in new episodes. After all, Grey's has a long history of tackling important real-life issues. "There's been no shortage of incredible stories that have been going around this time, both in the hospital walls and in the streets of cities protesting, so we hope to tell all those stories this season," he said.

Gianniotti's comments come after Vernoff confirmed during a virtual panel that the coronavirus pandemic will be featured in new Grey's episodes. She noted it would be impossible for the series not to touch on the "medical story of our lifetimes." The Grey's team was previously praised in March for donating medical supplies to frontline workers during the early days of the pandemic.