- Jesse Williams has praised the “sexual empowerment” of Sarah Drew’s on-screen love in their “iconic” sex scene.
- He said Drew created a “safe space” for him to act which was “therapeutic and healing”.
- “We failed a lot together,” Williams said. He loves that Drew had a “happy ending” at Lifetime.
Former ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Jesse Williams has opened up about the unique kind of ‘sexual empowerment’ his former on-screen partner Sarah Drew brought to one of their most ‘iconic’ scenes in a interview with Insider.
In October, when asked to recall a time when Drew exceeded his expectations on set, one of the examples Williams cited was the bathroom sex scene between his character Jackson Avery and April Kepner ( portrayed by Drew) in the season eight episode titled “Let the Bad Times Roll.”
The doctors were taking their medical advice to become treating surgeons and turned to each other for relief between testing sessions, convinced they were failing for different reasons.
“April had never been in her body, demonstrated that kind of sexuality and confidence, and sexiness before, and probably not often after that in my memory,” Williams said of Drew’s character.
He said Drew added an unexpected “layer” to April at the time because before the medical advice scenes she was written as a “nerdy, inexperienced young woman”.
“So that kind of sexual empowerment was like, ‘whoa,’ he was a different stage partner,” Williams said of Drew at the time, adding that he thinks his performance is one why a video of the scene on YouTube has over 36 million views so far.
Williams said he was also impressed with Drew during the Season 11 scene where April gives birth to their son Samuel Avery, who would die shortly after birth from osteogenesis imperfecta. The on-screen couple, dubbed “Japril” by the internet, were married at the time.
“God, I mean, it was real,” Williams recalled of the scene, noting that he didn’t “know the difference” between actual childbirth and Drew’s acting in the moment.
“I was sitting right next to her all the way across from her and lost sight of that I was supposed to be in the scene. I was just staring at her, riveted,” he added.
The art actually mimicked Drew’s life 10 hours after filming the scene. She had suggested Samuel’s death to the writers of “Grey’s Anatomy” when she was pregnant with his real-life daughter Hannah Lanfer. Hannah was born prematurely 10 hours after filming the scene of Samuel’s birth.
But even pregnant and having to tell such a devastating story at work, Williams remembers feeling supported by Drew in those scenes, at a time when he really needed it.
“I probably wasn’t the most emotionally available person in real life in the world,” he admitted, adding that he found the experience of doing this work with her to be “really therapeutic and healing.” .
Williams said he and Drew created a “safe space” for each other while working together and were “best friends” when the camera stopped rolling. He called the news of his departure from ‘Grey’s’ in 2018 an “earthquake” for him.
So he said he was proud of his friend’s screenwriting debut in 2022, Lifetime’s “Reindeer Games Homecoming.”
“We’ve failed a lot together. We’ve seen a lot of things fall apart. So watching her have an idea and get yes, after yes, after yes, and having to do it herself, that was just a real happy ending. “Williams said.
And no, he can’t distract himself from the potential Japril fallout either. When asked what else he would like to work on with Drew in the future, he replied that while he had no intention of adding “fuel to the fire” of this idea, “it would be really interesting if they had a mature, more straight, professional and personal relationship not as trainees, but as people in power.”
“I own the whole foundation now, so it must be different than sneaking around in a lab coat in the residents’ lounge,” added Williams, who has already reprized his role as Jackson twice since his 2021 departure from “Grey’s Anatomy” as a series regular.
Williams is currently starring in the Broadway revival of “Take Me Out” at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.