Friday, January 25, 2013

Phantom Limb Syndrome Will Haunt 'Grey's Anatomy's' Arizona, Says Jessica Capshaw

On this week's installment of "Grey's Anatomy," phantom limb syndrome takes over Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) and the pediatric surgeon -- who had recently (finally) made some progress since losing her leg in a plane crash at the start of Season 9 -- is going to experience a major setback.

Phantom limb syndrome plagues the majority of amputees, "Grey's" star Capshaw explained to HuffPost TV via phone, and it causes painful sensations that an amputated limb is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. "I can only imagine how devastating it would be," Capshaw said. "And it would certainly stop you in your tracks as far as recovery goes. How do you deal with that?"

Below, Capshaw opens up about Arizona's battle this season (which initially "scared [her] off"), being behind this season ("because sometimes it's actually hard to watch"), potential firings at Seattle Grace in the wake of the lawsuit settlement, the debate over just how much gay visibility Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona bring to the TV landscape and much more.

It's been a long season for Arizona. What has it been like for you playing a character who's been in such a dark place?
It's been challenging. It's been really challenging. Shonda [Rhimes, the creator of "Grey's Anatomy"] -- who's like the Oz -- knew way better than I did what the landscape of [Arizona's] journey was going to be. I was scared off by merely the hint of the journey. I just had a baby and I was like, "Wait. Hold on. I'm coming back and I'm going to play this? This is really sad and dark and I want to talk about things that are lovely and light and life-affirming." So I don't know that I was even quite ready for what was about to happen, but, as I tend to do, I said, "Alright. Let's try!" And since we started, it has been dark and it's been challenging and I hope, I pray, authentic.

It's not been pretty. As an actor, I think you get attached to even creating the look of a character and in the beginning, believe you me, I used to look at my makeup artist and say, "Mascara?" [Laughs.] She'd say, "Hmm. I don't know." And I was like, "Yeah, I know. I shouldn't." [Laughs.] It was stripping everything away and you kind of had to lean into it and I did.

Ultimately, it's been a tremendous gift to be given material that is as challenging as this if you feel like you can come out the other end and feel like you did a great job. I'm very proud of the work. But I do have to say, I'm not as current with the episodes as I should be because sometimes it's actually hard to watch for me. And I can't stop talking about the visual effects guys because they're so unbelievable. I mean, they make it look like I have one leg, which also completely flips me out. It's bizarre. And speaking of bizarre, this week's episode really dips into -- Sandra Oh [who plays Cristina] and I were talking about it -- something really cool and totally different and creepy and nightmarish. It's been very interesting to do and ultimately incredibly rewarding.

Yes, in this week's episode, Arizona struggles with phantom limb syndrome. What can you tell viewers about that? Did you do a lot of research?
Yes, I spoke to amputees and we have a wonderful researcher so there was a lot of literature and thankfully, there's a real community. There are places where people who are dealing with this kind of loss can go to to understand the stages, much like grief counselors. If you're lucky enough to be around that kind of resource, you can take advantage of that.

There are many people who go through phantom limb syndrome, which is that you feel excruciating pain where the limb was that is no longer there. So you're on the road to recovery, you're accepting, you're accepting, you're accepting, you're accepting and then all of a sudden, your mind is not communicating correctly with your body and your mind thinks that something's there and it's creating a sensation of pain that your body actually isn't feeling because the limb isn't there. There are a bunch of different therapies and our show represents a couple of them. I can only imagine how devastating it would be. And it would certainly stop you in your tracks as far as recovery goes. How do you deal with that?

That's so upsetting because the last couple episodes, we've seen Arizona really ...
Start to buck up? [Laughs.]

Exactly. Especially in terms of things with Callie. Will the phantom limb be a huge setback for her?
I think the show is definitely not teeing up the story to be one of defeat so I think that ultimately, there's not a closure really, but it's about dealing with this particular syndrome and besting it. She will see an end to it and honestly, it's the road to acceptance and then moving past that because once you can accept that something is gone, you can move on from it. But if you can't accept that it's gone, you're not going anywhere.

At the end of last week's episode, Hunt [Kevin McKidd] learned that the hospital would go bankrupt if they pay the settlement that Arizona, Callie and the other doctors are owed. When will we see the fall out there?
I think it's going to be sooner rather than later. With the arrival of the amazing Constance Zimmer [who's playing Dr. Alana Cahill, a physician?s adviser hired to help Seattle Grace avoid bankruptcy] comes a bottom line. She's kind of the bad news bear. As far as the political climate and the social climate goes right now in our country and probably the world, we're all understanding that there's someone ultimately that comes in and has a bottom line and talks about how there are people who are on teams that aren't efficient and you can get rid of them. So when she comes in, that's her job and it definitely upsets the applecart.

Because of the loss of Arizona's leg, we really haven't seen much else between her and Callie this season that doesn't revolve around that issue. Will there be more interactions with them, maybe as parents and more specifically, as gay parents?
Well, it's hard to work to children. [Laughs.] I mean, I would never want to speak for someone else, but I feel that in playing the character, for sure, you absolutely have to celebrate and understand what your specific life will be and who the character is within the framework of the show. But I feel like I've always approached this character and this couple like we're all just people. I've never felt that we needed to politicize it and I've always leaned away from politicizing it because I think the most important thing is showing relationships and partnerships and love and challenge and making it all about one thing has always been less interesting to me. I think the goal is for us all to be who we are and have that be not only OK, but equal.

I mean, listen, if everything was addressed, the show would be three hours. [Laughs.] We have to trust that the audience will make certain acceptances that [Callie and Arizona] are at home being parents and that will come in and out. But I also think from when I was a fan of the show and it's a show about a hospital and a group of doctors. Of course it's always exciting when their personal lives come into it, but it is a show about doctors. We spend 90 percent of our time telling our stories in scrubs so how can it be about much more?

Does it feel like the fact that Callie and Arizona are not really not viewed as a "gay" couple anymore and are just a couple is a sign of progress?
Yeah. I mean, it's not a big thing. It's interesting. We got into a discussion one time because Derek [Patrick Dempsey] and Meredith [Ellen Pompeo] never kissed inside the hospital because that was when they were at work. And something came up one time when we were blocking a scene and we were thinking we might put in a kiss and then we thought, "Hmm. Does this feel right? We're at work. Do people kiss at work?" And then we were wondering, "Well, is it a straight/gay issue? It doesn't feel like that, but is it?" To be frank, there are people who are fans of the show that do wish there was more of that or less of that. I guess, at the end of the day, we always just end up playing the characters the best we can in the moment.

"Grey's Anatomy" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.

  • Kurt and Blaine, "Glee"

    Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and Blaine Anderson ((Darren Criss) were the epitome of high school sweethearts on Fox's "Glee" -- and the fan-favorite couple among most Gleeks. Klaine is kind of like a holy word in the "Glee" Bible. Not only were they each other's first boyfriends, but they lost their virginity to each other during the controversial Season 3 episode, "First Time." Blaine has also helped Kurt through some tough times, including standing up to Kurt's bully, Dave Karofsky, and taking a laced slushy to the eye to protect him. Though Kurt's move to New York led to some major problems for the couple, we still have faith that they'll end up together.

  • Michael and Ben, "Queer As Folk"

    For the first two seasons of "Queer As Folk," we thought that Michael Novotny (Hal Sparks) would never get past his obsession with his best friend Brian Kinney (Gale Harold) -- but then he met writer and fellow comic book lover Ben Bruckner (Robert Gant) and his love life took a turn for the better. Together, Michael and Ben had to deal with Ben's steroid use and his HIV, but eventually the two celebrated their marriage in Canada, with Brian by Michael's side, and they eventually had two children. Sure, Ben might think they're "conformist homosexuals," but we're just happy Michael finally got the happy ending that he deserved. They may not have been the show's most popular couple, but they were the cutest. (Sorry, Brian and Justin fans!)

  • David and Keith, "Six Feet Under"

    There was just something that felt authentic and real about David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith's (Mathew St. Patrick) relationship on "Six Feet Under." Keith supported David as he came to terms with his sexuality, came out to his family and struggled to recover from a traumatic kidnapping. They had their struggles, but eventually settled down together, adopted two kids and, as the series finale's flashforward showed, lived a nice long life and eventually got legally married in the state of California. (Yep, creator Alan Ball predicted the Prop 8 ruling way back in 2005!)

  • Cam & Mitchell, "Modern Family"

    Arguably the most popular gay couple on television at the moment, Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are the perfect complement to one another. Mitchell's serious and more introverted, and Cam is a jovial clown (occasionally even literally -- we love Fizbo!). Always a blast to watch, the couple's antics are both heartwarming and hilarious. Even if we don't get to see them be affectionate with each other nearly often enough, we love seeing them raise their adopted daughter Lily together. "Modern Family" writers, now it's time to get these two properly (and legally) hitched!

  • Jack McPhee & Doug Witter, "Dawson's Creek"

    There were many hearts broken in the "Creek," but it was most difficult to watch Jack (Kerr Smith) struggle with each of his relationships after he came out of the closet. When he finally hooked up with Pacey's brother Doug (Dylan Neal), we couldn't help but cheer, and Doug's hesitation to come out at work made Jack finally step up as a confident and proud gay man. Their story wrapped on a bittersweet note in the series finale, as they agreed to raise dying Jen's (Michelle Williams) daughter Amy together in Capeside.

  • Callie and Arizona, "Grey's Anatomy"

    Callie (Sara Ramirez) tried being married to a man (R.I.P. George O'Malley) before realizing she had feelings for women. Her first try at having a girlfriend (Erica Hahn, played by Brooke Smith) didn't end well, but her rebound relationship with Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) made her embrace her sexuality, even if her religious father couldn't. Their relationship has survived quite a bit -- including the loss of Arizona's leg (as a result of Callie's decision) -- but the two vowed to stay together since getting married in front of all their friends, with Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) officiating. Even with the madness at Seattle Grace, they're still holding on.

  • Willow and Tara, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

    You can just call Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) the Wiccans that stole our hearts. From their budding romance that grew along with their powers to the tragic end, Willow and Tara were the couple we loved to love. If Tara was under Willow's spell (yes, we're referencing Tara's song in "Once More With Feeling" and the fact that Willow really did cast spells on Tara, grrr), then we were under theirs.

  • Barca and Pietros, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"

    Two of this show's most winning qualities are the fact that that it depicts a whole range of sexuality with clear-eyed thoughtfulness and that gay relationships aren't treated any differently than heterosexual ones. Barca (Antonio Te Maioho) was one of the fiercest gladiators in "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," and at the end of a long day in the arena, this tough warrior found comfort in the arms of a young man named Pietros (Eka Darville). The couple had their share of ups and downs, but Barca's intimacy with Pietros gave dimension and depth to the character. Terrible things tend to happen to the "Sparatacus" gladiators, who are slaves after all, but at least we got to see the sweet sides of two men who didn't often have occasion to let down their guards.

  • Bette and Tina, "The L Word"

    For six seasons, fans of Showtime's groundbreaking lesbian-centric series "The L Word" followed the highs and lows of Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina's (Laurel Holloman) complicated relationship. There was adultery and pregnancy struggles and tons of emotion that all culminated in that very absurd murder in the series finale. Still, we'd like to think that Tibette stayed together ... even in the Jenny Schecter aftermath.

  • Kevin and Scotty, "Brothers and Sisters"

    Kevin (Matthew Rhys) and Scotty (Luke Macfarlane) had their rough patches, but Scotty was the only man who could put up with Kevin's neuroses and the Walker family drama. Their commitment ceremony in Season 2 -- the first same-sex TV marriage ever to involve main characters -- didn't make life a total fairytale, but they did weather quite a few more storms (cheating and a failed surrogacy among them) before adopting daughter Olivia.

  • Emily and Maya, "Pretty Little Liars"

    It was hardly an easy road for formerly closeted lesbian Emily (Shay Mitchell) on ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars." But when she met Maya (Bianca Lawson), the new girl living in her missing BFF's house (yep, you read that right), she was smitten. Though Emily's mom tried to keep them apart and Maya's parents sent her to boot camp, the two finally found their way back to each other. Maya even made a grand gesture and professed her love to Emily. Sadly, Maya was murdered and Emily, in turn, murdered her killer. Not that we'd condone that but still ... it's sweet as far was "Pretty Little Liars" goes.

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