If you thought Meredith Grey had a difficult mother, just wait until you meet the matriarach of the prestigious Avery family.
In this week's Grey's Anatomy, Jackson's mother, Catherine Avery (portrayed by Debbie Allen, who has directed multiple episodes of the ABC medical drama) comes to Seattle Grace to perform a groundbreaking surgery. His intrusive mother's visit becomes even more uncomfortable for him when it's revealed what procedure she's doing: A penis transplant.
TVGuide.com caught up with Jesse Williams to get the scoop on Catherine's stay at the hospital along with what's in store for the future of Lexie (Chyler Leigh) and Jackson (Or "Jaxie," as he likes to call them):
What kind of person is Catherine Avery? Is she Ellis Grey, 2.0?
Jesse Williams: I would say she has a lot in common with her in that she is a bit of a narcissist, she's incredibly meddling and all-knowing, not only in medical skills, but that spills over to social confidence and relationships, just giving advice on every level. However, I would say she's very different from Ellis Grey (Kate Burton) in that she's very warm, very maternal and nurturing. She's a touchy[-feely] mom who wants to swaddle you up. That's engaging for Jackson, but also a bit of a deterrent because there was a stage in his life for that, but he's always been trying to make it on his own. Jackson doesn't want to live off his legacy and his name, which also conflicts with him wanting to be close to his mother.
We hear Jackson will ship Lexie off. Why doesn't he want her to meet his mother?
Williams: He doesn't want to scare her off. He doesn't want to have her feel like she's being hit by a battering ram and getting grilled. He doesn't expect his mother to be there long. He expects her to show up, give a lecture, and take off. He doesn't know there's a groundbreaking procedure that she wants to do, and he has no idea she'll essentially be living there for that short time. With sending Lexie off, he's trying to do something right, trying to start new with her and let the pace set itself by not rushing into anything.
What are Jackson and Catherine like in surgery? Is he trying to prove himself?
Williams: Sure, he wants to have her approval and wants her to think he is ahead in his class. But I don't feel like he is overburdened by wanting to be good enough for her in the same way as [he is with] his grandfather, who in many ways, doesn't like him as a person. He wants his mom to not be embarrassed about him, but he doesn't want her to be meddling all up in his sh--.
What kind of interaction does Catherine have with Jackson's mentor, Mark (Eric Dane)? Does he seek her approval?
Williams: Yeah, it's nice that Mark is sometimes funny, sometimes a prick, but he's always cocky and confident. It's nice to see somebody put anybody with those characteristics in their place, or flip them on their heads where they're the one seeking approval when they're very stingy in dishing it out. It's part of Jackson's growth process with Mark in figuring out who this dude is. There's a part of Jackson who doesn't know if he should take him seriously, both as a personality and as a potential threat to his girlfriend and love life. Will he be a problem or a real asset to Jackson?
Who else will Catherine interact with at Seattle Grace?
Williams: You're going to see Catherine Avery get into it with Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). Her dynamic with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is funny because Catherine starts meddling. She knew Ellis Grey, she knows the Chief (James Pickens, Jr.), so she is aware of who Meredith is. Her trying to toy with Meredith a bit is to suss out what the deal is with Lexie. She's trying to play a not-very-slick meddling detective, usually directly in front of Jackson's face. It harkens back to what Jackson and Meredith went through when Jackson's grandfather was here. Meredith was the only person who really got the pressure and frustration of being a legacy and trying to make your own name.
Because he worked alongside April (Sarah Drew) and has been friends with her for years, Jackson's mom knows her as well and taught her in a class. Unbeknownst to Jackson, it turns out April has not only been staying in touch with his mom, which he didn't know about, but they're actually Facebook friends. [Laughs] He's startled and annoyed by the idea she's even on Facebook, so he feels there's no confidence in confidentially anymore.
Moving forward, what will we see for Lexie and Jackson? Especially since Chyler Leigh hasn't been around much this season.
Williams: I'm actually really interested in how the next few episodes will play out with the two of them, "Jaxie," as it were. Now they will have to deal with the reality of working in the same space all the time, working with Mark, her trying to find her place, him having the pressure of fifth year, and also, Jackson trying to juggle everything. They've had a really nice stride for a couple months, so I'm excited to see where it goes. But you definitely will see them engaged in a very serious and relaxed dialogue and will actually be interacting in the coming episodes.
Mark clearly still cares for Lexie, so how will that affect "Jaxie's" relationship?
Williams: We haven't totally sussed that out yet. Mark has traditionally been a dirt bag who just chases tail, but his relationship with Lexie was real and it's hard to shake those feelings. The whole triangle is about feelings and how quickly they can fade or return, or convincing ourselves we're over somebody when we're not. Jackson went into the relationship with eyes wide open and he knows the deal. Mark is doing a fairly admirable job about staying in his place. He really cares a lot about Jackson as a student and a surgeon.
How do you feel about the fans who feel so strongly about Mark and Lexie getting back together?
Williams: I take the audience's awareness very seriously. I always want to be mindful of that as we make decisions as actors to put time and energy into creating these characters. I'm aware that they have more information than Jackson does. When they see Jackson and Lexie, they're keenly aware of her history with Mark and they expect something to happen. They want to figure out if she's really over him and if she's moving on. It's a perfectly reasonable question, and what I've been enjoying playing is Jackson dealing with that in a mature way, being aware of it, but not being obsessed with it. Jackson is learning that he can't control everything.
Do you want to see Lexie with Jackson or Mark? Hit the comments with your thoughts.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.