Through the years of hot on-call hookups, rampaging shooters and various crazy and unusual cases on Grey's Anatomy, one doctor has stood apart from the rest as the heart of Grey Sloan Memorial hospital: Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.).
The stalwart former Chief oversaw the introduction and education of the original Fab Five and has ushered in several new generations of doctors over the years. After hitting a bump in the road after his near-death experience, Richard is finally back on top of his game — just in time for him to face the increasing pressure of retirement as he celebrates his birthday during Thursday's episode (9/8c, ABC).
"He thinks he's being forced into retirement," Pickens tells TVGuide.com from the set of Grey's. "He's given what he thinks are hints about retiring, and he's feeling a little shaky about that."
Even though Webber has taken a very active role in shaping the new residents, Pickens says retiring has always been in the back of Richard's mind. However, "he still thinks he's very vital and has a lot to offer experience-wise and as a fine surgeon," Pickens says. "He loves to teach and help guide these new residents through these murky waters as physicians, but also as people. It's more than just being a good doctor, it's also learning how to deal with people and understand that folks have feelings."
But don't expect Webber to go out quietly if retiring really is on the horizon. "Any time a man is faced with a change like that in their life, there's always going to be some resistance to change," he says. "Richard is no different than anyone else. He's not happy with it. He still has something to offer."
Do you think it's time for Richard to retire?
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.