Grey's Anatomy has a long history of making powerful hours of television, and this past season the series aired an all-time standout episode. The March episode "Silent All These Years" tackled the issues of sexual assault and consent through storylines involving Jo's (Camilla Luddington) biological mother's history and a hospital patient named Abby (Khalilah Joi) who goes to the emergency room after being assaulted the night before. The episode is groundbreaking in a lot of ways, from its honest depiction of the administration of a rape kit to the scene of a hallway lined with supportive women that the producers call the "Army of Awesome." Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff and episode writer Elisabeth R. Finch recently spoke about the episode at a WGA event, and they revealed a detail about the Grey's Anatomy "Army of Awesome" that makes the scene even more powerful.
"Silent All These Years" was largely inspired by the Supreme Court hearings of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and Brett Kavanaugh when she accused him of sexual assault. Vernoff was upset that Blasey-Ford's testimony was questioned so much. She said:
Our collective blood was boiling. I said have to do something about consent, because all of the kids in the country have now been taught that consent is irrelevant. We have an opportunity to refute the notion that consent doesn’t matter.
Finch set to the task of writing the episode, and she drew from a previous experience visiting the at the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA a few years ago. She toured the center as a visitor and saw how the center protects some patients from seeing strangers when they're there so that their trauma isn't triggered. She thought about a situation that would be the opposite of that: a room filled with women protecting and providing support to a patient. And that's how the "Army of Awesome" was born.
Even before the crew filmed the episode, they knew it was something special. Vernoff said:
We did a table read. And it was like church. It was sacred. It was silent but for the sound of everyone crying. And then we got up to leave the room, and pretty much every woman in the room came up to us and said, 'I want to be in that scene.'
After such a viscerally heartfelt reaction from the crew, Vernoff made it possible to have much of the Grey's Anatomy family appear in the "Army of Awesome" hallway scene. In fact, there are very few actors actually in the scene.
Because we are lucky to work at Shondaland, we made it possible for everyone who wanted to be in the scene to be in the scene without losing any pay. We paid people to come and cover them. And so the scene is: our writers, the PAs, the assistants, the crew, the line producers. All the women who work at Shondaland. It was amazing.
Even Finch herself is featured in the scene, pulling Abby's gurney into surgery. The inclusion of the Grey's Anatomy team in the episode is a perfect microcosm of the support Vernoff and Finch hope to see in the world at large. Vernoff pointed out that she sees it as part of her job as a TV writer to imagine and show the world as she hopes it might be. Vernoff said:
I want to see television that suggests the possibility of a different future while entertaining me. And if I can’t turn on the TV and find it, I’m going to keep making it for my own entertainment.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or violence, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).