Grey's Anatomy's Jessica Capshaw: What Will Threaten Arizona's Ability to Work?

TV Guide
Jessica Capshaw | Photo Credits: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

As if Arizona hasn't already had a rough year, Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy will see her stricken with an ailment that could be incurable: phantom limb syndrome.

How will Arizona handle the latest hurdle since her amputation? caught up with Jessica Capshaw, who also discusses how the plane crash survivors may be able to save Seattle Grace and Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona's future. Get the scoop:

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How will Arizona be dealing with phantom limb syndrome?

Jessica Capshaw: It's completely terrifying. When we finished the table read, everyone was like, "Whoa!" It's really creepy. It's really tonally different than a lot of the show. It kind of hits on a dream sequence that's lovely, but then it takes a sharp turn into this nightmare. I think it's incredibly compelling. You can't stop watching, especially because we have the craziest, most amazing special effects team in the universe that literally spend a month on each episode, fine-tuning and making sure it looks the way it does. It's mind-bending. It's a little bit outside the box for us.

How will it affect her work?

Capshaw: It's going to threaten her ability to work. The syndrome is actually that you feel pain, at times excruciating, in the limb that you actually no longer have. Seemingly, to that end, there would be no cure because you can't get rid of something that isn't there. It's about the connection between your mind and your body, and there are different therapies that you can go through to try and come to terms with it. She's going to have to go through those, and yet, because of her not wanting to deal with it, and her feeling like she can keep working, she's bringing it to work with her and it's hard to be operating on someone when you're feeling excruciating pain in your leg like someone's cutting it off.

Will Callie be there to help her through this?

Capshaw: She's in denial with Callie. They're in a sweet spot right now, so I don't think she really wants to go back into the dark place and bring Callie back into the dark place with her. As Callie said a couple episodes back, "It's always about the leg. It needs to stop being about the leg." So she doesn't want to bring it up with her. She's ready to move past it. Her mind is ready to move past it, but now it's her body and her mind that are making it impossible. She ends up going to Owen (Kevin McKidd), because he recognizes in her what he recognizes in a lot of his military buddies and amputees, so he ends up helping her to find therapies that might make it easier.

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How will the plane crash survivors feel about the possibility of Seattle Grace going bankrupt?

Capshaw: That's such a mixed bag of tricks. On some level, wouldn't you feel betrayed by someone choosing a cheaper alternative of getting you somewhere that in some cases made you lose your leg? At the same time, punishing that source would punish the place you love so much and you work at that's part of your lifeline. It's incredibly complicated. You're damned either way. You can't get behind either thing. I don't think they're going to feel any different about the emotional value about their workplace being compromised, but they have a particular situation in which they may or may not have power to help or not help and fix everything.

Fans have assumed that they will help and give their money to the hospital. But will there be a divide within the group on whether they should do that?

Capshaw: That might be the case, she says coyly. [Laughs] Certainly there's a lot of people involved, so I can't imagine they think the same thing.

Are we going to see more of Callie and Arizona rekindling their relationship?

Capshaw: I think that the most remarkable thing that you can say about them is that they are like any couple who love each other. They're still together. They're working on what they have to work with. It's challenging. Even when Arizona was blaming Callie for everything, there wasn't a love lost. It was never gone, it was just impossible for Arizona to see her way out of her grief. For me to play Arizona that way, in the first part of the season, was so hard because it's so unlike her. But that's what her circumstance made her. It's really just about moving on through your own stuff and finding your way back to being able to give your attention to that love.

It's interesting because Arizona gave a lot of that grief to Callie, but never really hard those moments with Alex (Justin Chambers), who actually amputated her leg. Will we see more of them together?

Capshaw: That's the other big relationship that she has. I don't know if you've noticed, but we've got a couple new people that have been sticking around and there's a lot of story to be told. In Thursday's episode, Alex and Arizona are very much a part of each other's story line. He was there when she first got back to work and she fell in the operating room. He's always there for her at key points, but there's been other story they've been trying to tell. Something that was very exciting that I never thought was going to happen again, which is, if you remember from the very beginning when Arizona came in, who did she go against? Bailey [Chandra Wilson]! And for the first time in a long time, Chandra and I have gotten to work together.

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Are we actually going to see some moments of happiness for Arizona coming up?

Capshaw: More like acceptance and more like, "I'm back." She's back to walking. We see her walking without a cane. I can't tell you how much I've studied videos of amputees walking with their prosthetics in different stages, but she's almost back to imperceptibly walking. If you could walk without people know you had a fake leg, that would be when she could really come back. I think, for her, and this is my own thought, once she can get a hold on not looking like someone who needs help at every corner, she can go back to what she was, which is that she's a happy person. There's cool stuff coming up in the episode after this too where she has a reckoning with a teenage girl about the handicapable and how you see them.

Yes, she'll walk again, but will she ever get back in the wheelie shoes?

Capshaw: She might be the first person to do that. I do think it's quite important to the fans. I don't know if [executive producer] Shonda Rhimes is going to deliver on that or not. It's up to her. I think you should get a Twitter/Facebook/Internet situation going for bringing her wheelies back!

Is @ArizonasWheelieShoes available? Hop to it, Grey's fans!

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.

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