Last season Calzona fans were heartbroken to see Grey’s Anatomy‘s resident lesbian couple go through growing pains that ultimately ended in Arizona’s infidelity. When the show returns for its tenth season tomorrow night on ABC, the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital will be dealing with the same problems they were when we last saw them, which means Callie (Sara Ramirez) is still reeling from being cheated on, and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) is desperate to put their relationship back together.
We talked with Jessica Capshaw about what else Arizona is up to this year and why she loves that Calzona is treated like every other couple on the show.
AfterEllen.com: What’s your anticipated fan reaction about where Callie and Arizona are when the show returns?
Jessica Capshaw: We pick up kind of where we left off. The shit’s hit the fan!
AE: So there’s no resolution to where we left off with you then.
JC: No, there’s definitely no resolution. I think that it’s really about the aftermath of an incredibly profound deception and a betrayal and what comes next. Because we start with still being in the moment of shock. I think these characters kind of can’t believe this has happened. And then obviously then that kind of has to go on for a little bit. It’s just so horrible.
AE: Hilarie Burton isn’t on this season so she doesn’t have to deal with the consequences. It’s literally all on Arizona.
JC: It is all on Arizona. I was saying earlier we started filming this season in mid-July and it was still summertime and everyone was having these wonderful breaks and time off and everyone was so happy, and I’m such a fortunate girl and I’ve been married to my husband for 10 years and I have these beautiful kids—generally speaking, I live an incredible life and am very happy. And then I go to work and am in the scenes playing this constantly just beaten down girl having made this whole – but rightfully so! I couldn’t even play that I hadn’t done anything wrong because I knew that what my character did was horrible! It was kind of like I walked around like a beaten dog for a couple months.
AE: But is that fun for you as an actor to go from being someone happy in life to playing someone who is more conflicted?
JC: Yes of course it is, of course it is. It’s 100 percent why as actors we get incentives to be outside of ourselves and bring experiences that we’ve had in life, on different spectrums, and bring them into work in an imagined environment and circumstance. So it, of course, was. But it did get a little demoralizing. You go from being like “La di dah di dah”—oh right, I’m Arizona now.
AE: What’s it like on set in between takes with Sara? Do you feel like you can switch it on and off? Are you able to be nice to her? [Laughs]
JC: Oh yeah, of course! Arizona definitely is trying everything to be nice. But it’s funny because I think whenever we’re shooting the happy scenes with any of our characters there’s a little more messing around in between takes and we talk and we share stories and we share this and we share that and there’s a lot of laughter, we definitely laugh a lot. When we do have a scene, again with any of the characters, that are serious or sad or provocative or whatever, it does, I think everybody, takes a downshift into a moment of feeling—we have to be—you can’t go from one polar opposite to the next, which we definitely weren’t used to. Because definitely we all kind of joke around and to not be joking around a much is definitely a change.
AE: One thing I really appreciate about [series creator] Shonda Rhimes is that the lesbian relationship is handled the same as any other relationship on the show. It’s just like the straight relationships on the show where there are ups, there are downs, there are crappy things they do to each other, there are awesome things they for each other. Is that something that you appreciate about the writing?
JC: I do, I really really do. I think that’s what’s so wonderful about Shondaland—nothing is ever pointed out: “This person’s black, this person’s white, this person’s gay, this person’s straight.” The people just are. They’re never explaining themselves through the lens of stereotype or presupposing stereotypes put upon them. And I think that is where everyone should—I think—that’s where everyone should be headed. We don’t need to talk about it because it just is. And I think that it’s interesting because i know the relationship has really meant something to the LGBT community and having this relationship has been really important.
I remember being shocked by it that someone at the very beginning told me that—I guess five years ago—I was playing the only openly gay character on primetime television that was a series regular. And I couldn’t believe that. Now it’s just not that way and I kind of —I think that, again, the furthering of it has been just being and not caring what people say or think or do and telling the story. So I actually thought it was really exciting when Shonda came to us with the infidelity because that is what happens in life. This couple wasn’t held up high as being precious or un-interruptable or impervious to life as it exists and the challenges that couples go through and I thought that was really cool. And so playing all of that has been very interesting and yet I understand—I get it. They’re not just having this issue to then go be different than who they are. They’re having this issue and they’re going to have to deal with it within their relationship.
Jessica Capshaw on the new and improved Arizona on this season of “Grey’s Anatomy”