[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy. Read at your own risk!]
After spending an entire summer wondering about the fates of our favorite Grey's Anatomy doctors, Thursday's premiere dropped several bombshells that forever changed the staff of Seattle Grace. Cristina (Sandra Oh) moved to Minnesota, Mark (Eric Dane) was pulled off life support, and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) was missing in action throughout most of the hour.
The sad truth was that she was at home in bed, destroyed by the fact that not only lives were lost in the plane crash: Her left leg, which was severely injured in the accident, had to be amputated. Yes, the always chipper and bubbly pediatric surgeon who used to roll around the hospital on wheelie shoes is now missing a leg — and she blames her wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) for it.
How will Arizona deal with the road ahead? TVGuide.com caught up with Capshaw to get the scoop on that and what this means for Calzona. (Shonda Rhimes, don't you dare break them up!) Get the scoop:
What was your reaction when Shonda told you she was planning to amputate Arizona's leg?
Capshaw: I was shocked. I definitely didn't see that one coming. Which, in hindsight seems silly of me given that there was a very, very real and very profound injury at the end of last season, but I just didn't know. I didn't even go there. I guess that's why I don't create shows. [Laughs]
Arizona has always been the pillar of happiness. How dark will her journey go?
Capshaw: I think that's the point. There is no light without dark, and there's no dark without light. Yes, at the inception of the character, I think there was something really nice about how light she was. ... Then, ever since going to Africa, when she came back, things just weren't the same. Something happened. It was the car crash. There was the baby. [And now] an airplane crash. She should just walk [out]. Now I say that and look what happened.
What will we see as Arizona is dealing with this?
Capshaw: The writers and Shonda are obviously trying to tell good stories. It seems, in the many conversations that we've had, there was a real story here. It was an opportunity to tell a good story of something very profoundly difficult happening to Arizona. Now, we'll see the story of how she comes to terms with that, how long it will be dark, and when it will get light again. Hopefully, it's that whole thing about all the people in London and Seattle: When it rains all the time, that one day that you get that's sunny is like the best day ever. I think that's the idea.
How will this change the relationship between Callie and Arizona considering she blames her?
Capshaw: I think you saw in the preview for the next episode, Arizona says, "Just don't let them take my leg." That's the only thing that she says. It's hard because they're doctors, obviously, and I think that's an important part of all this. Arizona is a doctor, so on some level medically, she understands what's happening better than your average patient. [But] it's also her partner, so how do you come to terms with that? How do you come to terms with the worst thing that ever happened to you coming from the person who is supposed to be the best thing that ever happened to you? I think that's going to be the journey for them.
How will her relationship with Alex (Justin Chambers) change considering, in a roundabout way, it his his fault she was on the plane?
Capshaw: It's so interesting to see how those two people have been changed because of what happened to Arizona. You were meant to think that Arizona was dead, I think. [Laughs]. It seems like he's going to stick in the peds thing because he has this relationship with Arizona that I think was very distinct. She was the first character to really say, "You are exceptional. You are worth so much and you have so much possibility. If you stick with this, you're going to be the best, so do that and be a good guy." I love that because I love that change in him. We've always known that he was a good guy, but to really see him showing up as a good guy. To now see him sleeping with all the interns, you watch someone slide back into their old habits because they're self-medicating.
Will Arizona ever return to Seattle Grace as a doctor or is there just too much bitterness there over what happened to her?
Capshaw: I think that, inevitably, the journey has to be to go back to the hospital. Without that, there would be no light at the end of the tunnel, and there would be no Arizona. That's the goal. How she gets there is what's going to be interesting to watch.
How will the rest of the Seattle Grace docs try to help her?
Capshaw: There is a new character that certainly will be helping. Obviously, Callie is doing everything she can, but I think it takes a little bit before Arizona is able to deal with it. There's some nice stuff coming up with Bailey (Chandra Wilson) that's great because the beginning of Arizona was all with Bailey. So to see that relationship come around again is great. Obviously, everyone is very supportive. I was reading the tweets last night, I think it's just so shocking. You don't even know what to do. When I was doing my research and I was talking to amputees, I think one of the questions that I had was, "How do you spend each day almost as a new day because there's going to be someone new that sees you for the first time? How do you not spend every day as, 'Oh, look I'm an amputee!' because that's what people are looking at?" It's a real question. Again, it's so shocking, but it's about the character getting right with herself. There's a lot of stuff between here and her feeling good again.
What can you tease about next week's return to the plane crash rescue?
Capshaw: I think that it was surprising. I imagined that a lot of people thought we'd just go right back to the plane crash in the first episode, and I think that it's kind of genius that it's the second episode because you are going back to what's actually happened, but seeing how it came to be. The next episode you definitely get a window into people showing themselves completely and clearly in extreme adversity, and that's what the aftermath of the plane crash definitely did.
We can't wait to see where Arizona goes this season!
Capshaw: It'll be a journey! I feel very lucky to have been trusted with a story line that is this intense. This is not "show up to work and wheel around on a pair of skates." This has been a real gift of really intense work and really beautiful writing. I hope that it affects people. I'm glad to not have to be silent anymore because it was sort of killing me. What can I tweet about? [Laughs] Here's what I had for breakfast this morning!
Were you surprised by Arizona's fate? Hit the comments!
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.