The series premiere of "Station 19," set in the same world as "Grey's Anatomy," will air March 22 on ABC.
ABC’s Seattle-set “Station 19,” a “Grey’s Anatomy” companion series debuting at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 22, marks the second “Grey’s” spinoff but the first to be set in Seattle.
While the 2007-13 “Grey’s” spinoff “Private Practice” relocated Addison (Kate Walsh) from Seattle to Southern California as a way to advance her story, former “Grey’s” writer and now “Station 19” showrunner Stacy McKee had a specific reason for keeping the action local — really local: fictional Station 19 is located just three blocks from fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to think they could have existed in this universe this whole time and we’d just never shone a light on this particular place?” she said. “As we’ve watched ‘Grey’s’ over the years, we’re always out in the breezeway. Paramedics get out of the rig, drop off patients and get back in the rig and drive away. We never followed them so I wanted to get back in that rig and go with them.”
Like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19,” while ostensibly set in Seattle, will mostly film in Los Angeles. In success, “Station 19” might return once or twice a season to film scenes to insert in the show. But for the 10-episode first season, local filming on the first hour of the two-hour premiere was confined to three out of 14 production days in October.
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That includes shots of a burning home and of the fire-station exterior, Seattle’s real-life Station 20 (there is no real-world Station 19), located on 15th Avenue West on Queen Anne’s west side.
“We did spend a day-and-a-half with the second unit doing day and night (shots of fire) trucks moving through Seattle” and in and out of the fire station, said veteran executive producer/television director Paris Barclay, who directed the first episode. “It’s the same sort of thing we did in the ‘NYPD Blue’ days.”
Barclay won two Emmys directing that 1993-2005 ABC series, which was set in New York but filmed primarily in Los Angeles. But different from on “NYPD Blue,” the actual location of “Station 19” in Seattle won’t be defined.
“Unlike on ‘NYPD Blue,’ where we were in the East Village and the crimes happened there, we want to have the ability to be downtown, to be on the water,” Barclay said of “Station 19.” “All our actual locations (in the first hour) are quite disparate and would probably really be handled by different stations, but it’s a show and we wanted to be able to see a lot of Seattle.”
“Station 19” follows Ben Warren (Jason George) as he trades in his scalpel (on “Grey’s”) for a firehose, becoming the rookie of Station 19.
“His character seemed like such an organic character to transition into the spinoff, especially once we’d settled on the idea of firefighting and a fire station,” McKee said. “If you followed Ben Warren as a character, he’s changed careers a couple of times. And he always goes after the thing that he thinks is going to satisfy him the most in the moment. And he’s never satisfied if he’s stuck somewhere that isn’t fulfilling him. … Plus, you know, he was playing with fire in the finale of ‘Grey’s’ last season.”
He’s the audience entry point, but the true lead character in “Station 19” is Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz), a firefighter and daughter of Station 19 Capt. Pruitt (Miguel Sandoval). She’s already made an appearance on “Grey’s” this season in the lead-up to the “Station 19” premiere.
Andy’s sleeping with Lt. Jack Gibson (Grey Damon, “Friday Night Lights”) when she’s not hanging out with friend and former high-school flame Ryan Tanner (Alberto Frezza) and firefighters Maya Bishop (Danielle Savre) and Victoria “Vic” Hughes (Barrett Doss).
“Traditionally, there are far more men than women in the world of firefighting,” McKee acknowledged. “What’s amazing about our station and fantastic about Seattle in general, we have three awesome women that are very strong within our station itself and some of them in positions of power, and if you look at Seattle, it has one of the highest percentages in the nation of women who are a part of the firefighting department. So that was a really important aspect to me in thinking about setting this spinoff and what world I wanted to work in.”
McKee teased the notion of one of the “Station 19” characters living on a houseboat, but she wouldn’t say which one.
“I love the idea it could be someone who goes out and fights fires everyday so they have to go home and be surrounded by water,” she said.
But pulling off Seattle in Southern California can be tricky, Barclay acknowledged.
“Seattle is a lot hillier with no palm trees,” he said. “The street signs are different. Silver Lake is more like Seattle in its hilliness and some of the downtown (Los Angeles) area (works).”
Most cast members were just in and out of Seattle during production in October, but Doss and actor Jay Hayden, who plays another Station 19 team member, stayed an extra day, walking up Queen Anne Hill and eating at Dick’s Drive-In.
“She was so mad at me that I took her to see the gum wall (at Pike Place Market) and not the Troll (in Fremont),” Hayden said.
“We just wandered around and I tried to imagine where (my character) might live,” Doss added. “I loved Capitol Hill. … I would love to think she lives there.”
Actor Damon did find one similarity between Seattle and Los Angeles during his brief October visit.
“It took us 40 minutes to get to set each day because of traffic,” he said. “I didn’t know there were other places that had traffic like L.A. I’m not bashing it because it’s still so pretty to look at even if you are in traffic.”
“Station 19”: 9-11 p.m. Thursday, March 22, ABC. Starring: Jaina Lee Ortiz, Jason George.