James Pickens Jr., Eric Dane and Loretta Devine

Loretta Devine is looking forward to her return to Grey's Anatomy this fall, especially since the medical drama is continuing the heartwrenching story line that helped earn the veteran actress her first Emmy nomination for playing the Chief's wife, Adele Webber, last season.

As TVGuide first reported, Richard (James Pickens Jr.) will step down as Chief of Surgery in Season 8, handing the reins over to Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd). Devine, who is slated to appear in at least one episode this season, thinks Adele won't necessarily be happy with the news even though she has spent years trying to convince Richard to slow down and give up his position.

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"A lot of times wives complain about stuff — like my husband watches too much baseball or he's too attached to this, that, and the other — but, in a way, you're really glad that the man has passions the same way we do," Devine tells TVGuide.com. "Adele might say she doesn't want him to work but that's all she's ever loved about him. She may be unhappy for him until he adjusts to his new life."

For now, Devine just hopes Adele, who began a downward spiral into dementia last season, will be able to remember her husband, let alone the sacrifices he's made for her. "You hope that there's some kind of recovery for her or that there's a better way of life or state of longevity of life, where she's clear on things," she says. "You're hoping that she doesn't even have it."

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Her newfound disease —  suspected to be Alzheimer's — was the catalyst for some of the biggest changes hitting Seattle Grace since it merged with Mercy West. Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) jeopardized her own career by tampering with her and Derek's (Patrick Dempsey) clinical trial, and in turn, those ethical misdeeds forced Richard to resign as Chief.

It's bittersweet that Meredith has risked her job for Adele, since it was her own family that once caused the Chief's wife so much pain. Meredith's now-deceased mother, who also suffered from Alzheimer's, had carried on a decades-long affair with Richard while working at Seattle Grace back in the day.

Devine credits Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes and her "tremendous writing" for the story coming full-circle. "They pre-plan everything now so by the end, everything just sort of matches up in an incredible way. The scene where I confront Meredith and I think she's her mother, where she has to tell her, 'No, I'm not my mom,' it's just incredible writing," Devine recalls. 

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What was more exciting for Devine was playing out the deterioration of a once-strong female into someone who was forgetful and prone to accidents — landing her in the ER more than once without clear recollection of what happened, putting her in defense mode. "The whole fact that the character was totally in denial made absolute sense," she says. "I think she was in denial up until the very end, and that's what happens a lot of times with people who are dealing with the disease." 

Check out a first look at the state of Seattle Grace in the wake of Meredith's transgression:

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9/8c on ABC.