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'Grey's Anatomy' executive producer says show will grapple with coronavirus next season

"There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes," Krista Vernoff, "Grey's Anatomy" showrunner, said.
Image: A scene from Season 16 episode of \"Grey's Anatomy.\"
A scene from Season 16 episode of "Grey's Anatomy."Rick Rowell / ABC

The showrunner and executive producer of "Grey's Anatomy" revealed the medical drama will home in on the novel coronavirus during its next season.

"We’re going to address this pandemic for sure," Krista Vernoff said during a recent virtual panel hosted by the Television Academy, according to Entertainment Weekly. "There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes."

Vernoff, who appeared on the panel alongside "Grey's Anatomy" actors Chandra Wilson and Kevin McKidd, said that the show's writers are conducting research by interviewing actual doctors who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"Every year, we have doctors come and tell us their stories and usually they’re telling their funniest or craziest stories," Vernoff said. "This year, it has felt more like therapy."

She added that the show's writers are "often the first people" doctors talk to about what they're experiencing.

"They are literally shaking and trying not to cry, they’re pale, and they’re talking about it as war — a war that they were not trained for," Vernoff said. ""I feel like our show has an opportunity and a responsibility to tell some of those stories."

After 16 seasons, "Grey’s Anatomy" remains the longest-running medical drama on television. While shooting has been postponed because of the pandemic, Vernoff said she hopes to strike a balance between the gravity of the novel coronavirus and the frequently interchanging personal relationships between the staff at the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital for its 17th season.

"Our conversations have been constantly about how do we keep alive humor and romance while we tell these really painful stories," she said.

The full version of the panel, titled "Quaranstreaming: Comfort TV That Keeps Us Going," will air Tuesday on Emmys.com. The event also features David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos," and Thomas Schlamme, the director of "The West Wing."