Marti Noxon on "Sometimes a Miracle"
Original airdate: 2-22-07
A few months ago, I got a call from Shonda and Betsy Beers. I was lying on the floor when they called. I had my computer in front of me, so I was “writing”. I’d recently had lunch with Shonda and Betsy, and a few other meals with Shonda before that. So we’d hung out . We’d dined. We’d complained about… things only lucky TV people complain about. Things related to actually having jobs. Things which, by real world standards, barely even qualify as problems. But that’s why we need each other. Because we get each other, man
When the call came, despite previous eating and complaining, I was intimidated. Shonda and Betsy had created this monster hit, this highly-entertaining medical drama that millions of people watched and adored. Including me. I mean, Shonda’s kind of eerily talented -- and she knows Oprah.
But, honestly, I needed a good call. I was working on a soon-to-be Ill-fated pilot. Before that it was a brief and ill-fated stay on an otherwise successful ABC show. And before that I launched a brief and ill-fated series for Fox. And before that I worked on a… brief and ill-fated series for Fox.
We see a pattern.
Buffy was good. Can we talk about Buffy?
Problem is – Buffy was a long time ago. She lives on –- Season 8 soon to be in comic book form… But, in my nightmares, I’m 90 at a Buffy convention, and nobody wants my autograph. They’re all in line to see virtual Joss, who has invented a way to put his brain in a jar on a floaty thing, live forever and be funnier and more prolific than everybody for THE REST OF ALL TIME. I love Joss, but it’s hard being his friend.
Like I was saying. I needed a good call. And it came. Would I like to “come hang out” on Grey’s for a while? I’ll skip the part where I hung up and cried and called my agent and he cried and we all cried because, try as I might, it would be hard for me, personally, to turn Grey’s into an “ill-fated” show. Especially since I was to have a vague job title, no authority and non-specific duties.
So I hung out. For a few days it was all Christmas baskets and trying to make Shonda laugh (she was dying from iron deficiency and was too weak to lift the corners of her mouth – nobody knew that yet, so I danced like a little monkey. But more on that later). I also got to hang with the aforementioned Shonda and Betsy (so great at her job and so funny she makes me laugh until things come out of my nose); the amazing Krista Vernoff (amazing and pregnant and beautiful and able to write many fabulous pages in a single bound); Allan Heinberg -- Joss-like in his smartness and multi-talentedness; the warm, funny and ridiculously “on-it” in-every-way Tony and Joan Phelan; The Hammer – Mark Wilding – a great writer and The Godfather around here; fantastic (also lovely and pregnant) Debora, whose writing made me laugh and cry and all that other envy-inducing stuff; Stacy who can produce both wonderful scripts and amazing portraits of people made entirely of pipe cleaners… Not to mention the always enchanting Kip and Caro … Zoanne and Elizabeth, great writers and the people who actually know what doctors do and say. Every one of them was welcoming and seriously funny and dedicated. Also -- Kern, Eric, Darren, Jim, Chris, Sonay – assistants today – our bosses tomorrow. Tremendously funny and talented in their own right.
Finally – a special mention of Meg, the Writer’s PA, who we all adore – in the way that only creatures in captivity can love the person who brings them food. I’ve worked quite a few places, and I can honestly say that the single greatest benefit of working on a hit show is that Meg appears, at lunch time, with hot food and everything is as ordered. This may seem like a small thing, but for some reason in has proved impossible everywhere but here. And when lunch doesn’t come, writers get cranky and they stop working. They start talking about Nascar and our ex-whatevers, shopping, musicals and what we ate yesterday. (Okay, not Nascar – but I’m doing what I can to butch up the writer image here.) So thank God for Meg, who is great at many other things – but basically keeps Grey’s Anatomy up and running.
But I digress. I figured I had some time. I was just around to do… what exactly? Nobody knew. This is the truth about the “consulting” title. Nobody knows what it is. I think it has something to do with lunch.
But Shonda and company had other ideas. Shonda’s first part of a two-part episode became a two-parter itself – Ferry Hell, one and two. The ones in which Meredith goes into the water and dies. So Shonda suddenly had all this work to do and it turned out she had no IRON in her blood. And very little blood in her blood. Shonda needed help. From a doctor most of all – but a little help from me on the side. Which is how I came to co-write this episode of Grey's.
And the fact that there are dead people in it is just a coincidence. For those of you who fear I’m whispering in Shonda’s ear about the dark side and alternate realities and stuff – this was her thing, okay? I’m here to write MEDICINE, people. And sex. And sexy medicine.
I was again – intimidated. It was a challenge to write and shoot for so many reasons. Not in a digital-ferry-crashing-into-a-digital-dock way, but still… This, again, wasn’t a typical Grey’s. Half of it takes place… where? In Meredith’s head? In Heaven? We decided, for obvious reasons, not to get too specific. And we knew Meredith had to go on a journey. But, get it wrong and it’s “Touched by an Icy Blue Surgeon.” And Denny and Dylan? I’m supposed to touch the sacredness of Denny and Dylan? I think not. All will agree that I basically punted that stuff.
But you know, Denny and Izzie at the end. Shonda’s been talking about that since she pitched me the episode. It was heart-breaking then, in my office with bad lighting… So on it’s feet -- awesome. But I’ll let Shonda weigh in more on that favorite moment.
Back in Seattle Grace we struggled with going to such a dark place and finding the funny. Not that we found a lot of funny. If there’s a theme here – besides the search for Miracles -- it’s “death sucks.”
For me, what emerged were the love stories. Not just between Derek and Meredith, but between Cristina and Meredith. That essential friendship. Cristina walking out was something that was hotly debated here. Apparently – that’s not good doctoring (I’m new!) But it felt right. If not now, when? Meredith is Cristina’s person. And Richard and Ellis… That love coming to a definitive end. There’s a lot of grief in all of this, but there’s great hope too. It’s the lesson from “the other place” too. We are who we love.
In any case - Shonda did all the heavy lifting. She found the moments that sing for me, that pull it all together. I was still running around asking dumb things like “what’s an Attending?” Then Adam Arkin, a wonderful actor in his own right, did an amazing job directing it. And, as you’ll see – all the actors are in stunningly good form. But aren’t they always?
Oh yeah – they are really that pretty. That’s fun.
So. Thanks for letting me blog. It really was a good call to get – “come hang at Grey’s.” The people here are tremendous, and the show’s pretty damn fun to write when it isn’t trying to kill us all. I hope to stick around, at least until somebody tells me what an Attending is.
***and the agent weeps***