Grey's Anatomy has never shied away from the tough issues and Thursday night's episode was no exception. As Jo (Camilla Luddington) was forced to deal with her abusive ex (Matthew Morrison) who was injured in a hit-and-run accident, April (Sarah Drew) experienced a personal crisis of her own when a 12-year-old was rushed into the ER after being shot by the police.
For Sarah Drew, tackling the sensitive issue of unarmed police shootings was something that was difficult but needed to be done. "It's incredibly important," Drew tells TV Guide. "It's so unbelievably heartbreaking to witness what happens to this family as a result of the implicit bias and I think we really get an opportunity to spotlight it. It's an honor to get to be a part of a story that's that important."
April received a serious wakeup call when Jackson spoke of his own experiences with the police. In a brutally honest conversation, he detailed the time he was racially profiled while walking around his own neighborhood. Though April never suggested the officer who shot the young boy was in the right, Jackson's story did force her to change her perspective.
"This scenario opened her eyes in a way that maybe she wasn't aware because living in a place of privilege as she has in her life, she hasn't experienced any of this," Drew explained. "So when Jackson tells her the story [about being slammed against the car door by the police], that is a shocking realization of the way that an entire community of people is treated differently than she is."
More than that, the conversation exposed the very different experiences April and Jackson have lived and allowed April to learn something new about her ex. "I think it maybe highlights something that she doesn't understand and it's hard to hear that something that traumatic happened and that was something he never shared with her. But like he says, it just comes up when it comes up. I think there's a moment in there that feels a little like, 'Oh wow, I don't understand your experience and it's hard,'" the actress added.
April's spirit was also rocked by the re-emergence of Matt, the man she left at the altar back in Season 10, who shows up with his pregnant wife, Karen. "There's probably always been a longstanding sense of guilt knowing that she's tremendously hurt him. So him walking in years later is kind of a shock to the system but it's also an opportunity for her to potentially find some closure," Drew said. "It's complex but she's happy for him in that moment. She's grateful that he's found someone, that he has moved on."
However, her day takes a turn for the worse when both the young boy shot by the police and Karen die almost simultaneously and she wasn't able to help either of them. The heartbreaking moment leaves her questioning her faith.
"I think it's the last straw on a long day of tragic injustice that really causes her to question [that] if God is good and all-powerful, why isn't he doing something about all of the injustice that's happening in our country and around the world? And how can [she] believe in a God who doesn't do anything?" said Drew.
It's a soul-changing process that Drew says will continue to weigh on April moving forward. "I think something has profoundly shifted in her that's causing her to ask some really big questions that she's never asked before, that's forcing her to question who she puts her faith in."
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC.