“We can make a bad choice and turn around and do better,” the actress says of Arizona’s heartbreaking decision and subsequent confession.Arizona Robbins made a heartbreaking confession during Thursday’s ninth season finale of Grey’s Anatomy.
Following a season in which the beloved doc struggled with the aftermath of the plane crash that claimed the lives of both Mark and Lexie and cost the doc her leg, Arizona admitted her motive for cheating on Callie (Sara Ramirez) with Lauren (Hilarie Burton): She has yet to forgive her wife for breaking her promise that she’d save her leg. It’s a shocking reveal on many levels for the beloved couple who have weathered countless storms in the past, including the car crash that nearly cost Callie her life, and opens the door for “Calzona” to explore the anger that Arizona has been quietly carrying around for months.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Jessica Capshaw, who plays Arizona, to discuss why her character’s storyline is important and what she hopes to see in season 10.
A lot of fans are upset about this story, as if lesbian couples are immune from cheating. Why is it an important one to tell?
It’s important first and foremost because it’s good drama. Forget about who you are or how you define yourself or who you choose to love — it’s good drama. It would not be interesting to watch a couple remain happy and free from anything happening to their marriage or connection. This is a very dramatic way of showing what can happen to a marriage. On an emotional level, you want everyone to be happy, but since this isn’t real life there’s a good opportunity here to lean into being disgruntled, mad, angry, happy or even turned on. You have to roll with it.
The cheating arc is a departure from the stories audiences now — thankfully — have grown accustomed to seeing on TV for LGBT characters.
I look at what it felt like four years ago and what it feels like now, and I do feel like progress is being made.
Is there hope for Callie and Arizona? How much about season 10 has Shonda told you?
I don’t know that anyone knows. I’ve been with my husband for 11 years, married for nine, and when I think of the rupture of a relationship and the fallout of infidelity, I don’t know that you can get that trust back. Clearly, by the end of the finale, you understand that something for Arizona is permanently damaged and lost.
Arizona has been carrying this grief around all season. What was it about Lauren that brought this out?
Arizona has had the biggest pendulum swing this season. When we started the season off, there was no makeup, just the rawest scenes. There were scenes where I’d call Shonda saying, ‘I don’t know if I can play this broken, if I can be this sad.’ Arizona was incredibly disconnected. For her to be so disconnected and to not even know herself in her new form was really hard. There was a lot of holding on to everything just to get through every day to be alive in this new body. By the time she gets to a good place and feels like things are moving and working again, here comes this hot stranger who looks at her as an object of affection and Arizona just lets go. She’s been holding on so tightly for so long that this is the moment where she’s just not thinking straight and lets go.
We’d been waiting all season to see if Arizona would hold Callie accountable for her broken promise, and boy does she really hold her accountable! What you see in her very core is that Arizona does not forgive Callie for promising her that she would not amputate her leg and then amputating her leg. She does not forgive her for that. When you’re watching it, if you’re really listening, you understand both people’s point of view. I completely empathize when Callie says, ‘I only did it to save your life. You would have died!’ That’s a good point. Yes, she would and very well could have. But to Arizona in that moment of trust, she looked at her wife and said, ‘I need you to promise me something,’ and her wife looked back at her and said, ‘I promise you.’ And then she didn’t do it. For what ever reason, and I don’t know that it makes sense or is right or wrong, but Arizona does not forgive Callie.
How much has it been bothering Arizona that Callie — who effectively acted as if the crash happened to her — wasn’t part of it?
I didn’t know it was happening later down the season. We were in the middle of the storyline about buying the hospital and I remember saying, ‘Wouldn’t Arizona be bothered that her wife is coming in and acting like she was there when she wasn’t?’ Here are all these people who were all in the plane crash together, and Callie wasn’t there. It probably started bothering her around then.
Are you looking forward to the challenges ahead for Callie and Arizona as a couple?
I’m very much looking forward to it. I came onto the show four years ago, and it had been my favorite show. And I remember part of what I loved about it, which is why I can relate to people taking this story personally. I loved watching the bed hopping, the fun, the irreverence, reverence, how it made you cry and angry. When I came onto the show, the evolution of the character was to get into a relationship and stay in that relationship. A lot of stuff happens around them, but Callie and Arizona’s love was always in tact. I never saw this one coming. So once the story presented itself, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity as an actor to play with what the other sides of a person are. Infidelity is horrible — there’s nothing worse than that; it’s devastating. I hope it doesn’t turn into a year of self-flagellation for Arizona. I think you can do something bad and it doesn’t make you a bad person. We are not defined by any one choice. We are the sum of our experiences, and we can make a bad choice and turn around and do better. I do think that with any kind of infidelity, on some level — unless you’re dealing with a sociopath — there’s always a reason. There will be an exploration of what that reason was and that will give the Grey’s writers fertile ground to play with next season.
We haven’t learned a whole lot about Arizona’s past relationships. Think this storyline might help to explore some of her romantic history and if she’s been unfaithful before?
Except for that one episode that came from out of nowhere, when it turns out that Arizona had kicked up her heels a bit at her old hospital? I’ve never really played that part of who she was. Does that come back? I don’t know! (Laughs.)
Have you heard if Lauren might be sticking around?
Hilarie Burton is wonderful and everyone loved her, but I have no idea.
Might we see other crash-related baggage come up for her again — like Alex performing her amputation?
In the finale, she leans on him again, and they have a strong relationship. I don’t know that that was something that was some dark, closeted secret that people hoped wouldn’t pop out. I don’t know if it’s being treated like that or if they’re looking forward to teasing it.
In Arizona’s mind, does this even the playing field?
I don’t think she thinks that it levels the playing field. There’s always a reason for infidelity, and if anyone was pointing to any reason, it’s that on some level Arizona is really angry with Callie and has never gotten over that.