You may know her as the previously insecure resident at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, but April Kepner has come quite a long way since the beginning of the sixth season of Grey’s Anatomy. Sarah Drew (who plays Kepner) has been on a crazy adventure with this character, and this season is bringing even more wacky adventures. Aside from playing Kepner, Drew is taking on quite a few ventures of her own. With a 2-year-old son and a new movie coming out (May 9) close to Mother’s Day, Drew is keeping busy. She’s amazingly talented, wonderfully kind, and leaving her mark on the world.
Cliché: Alright, we are going to start with Grey’s Anatomy because it’s getting crazy. How is it being a part of the show?
Sarah Drew: It’s such a privilege and such an honor. I mean, I have watched Grey’s from day one. It’s the one show my husband and I have consistently watched together from the beginning. To have the opportunity to come on and be a part of it was so exciting and such a gift. At first, I thought I was only coming on for two episodes. Then it turned into a series regular, and I’ve gotten to see my character grow, transform, and become a part of the team. It’s been a wild wide.
How is it preparing to play the role of a doctor?
Well, for me, what I can relate to about the doctor stories is being able to empathize with where these patients are coming from with faith, life and death, love, and relationships—all of that relational stuff I can empathize with and connect to. The medical jargon stuff I find to be a bit harder, especially while we’re dealing out a lot of medical jargon while also doing medical things that we’re being taught how to do on set, while also connecting emotionally with whoever we’re supposed to be connecting with in a scene. That is what I find to be the hardest part, and I sometimes get tripped up on the medical jargon.
Now Kepner and Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) have such an interesting relationship and dynamic. With the episodes that have aired thus far this year, we see how that relationship culminated. How long did you know April was going to pick Jackson?
We knew from the beginning of this season (season 10). We kind of knew from the moment that April loses her virginity to Jackson (season 8). There was this inkling that this was a coupling that was going to happen and that we were going to see them through ups and downs and twists and turns, but ultimately wind up together. But at the beginning of this season, I sat down with a writer, and she said that the trajectory was that in the middle of the season I was going to walk down the aisle to marry Matthew and Jackson was going to stand up, and I was going to choose Jackson. I didn’t know they were going to get married right away. That was very surprising to us. That added a whole other level to the story which has been fun to play.
How did you feel for Matthew when you found out that April was going to marry Jackson right away?
Oh, it was awful! What April and Jackson do to Matthew is so awful! They leave such emotional destruction in their wake. The thing is, I’m proud of April for making the choice—at the last minute—to do the thing that she knew she’d regret if she didn’t do. I’m proud of her for doing that, but it comes at a cost, and April doesn’t want to run around hurting people left and right. That’s not who she is. She is compassionate because she cares about what her actions do to the people around her, so this was a very hard decision for her. I think she will have these moments of being racked with guilt for pretty much destroying this guy. It’s going to take Matthew a long time to heal from this and be able to trust someone. But when it comes down to it, everything comes second to the original thing I think. She had to make the decision. I really wish Jackson had gotten his act together sooner and figured out what he wanted before she walked to the altar, but then that wouldn’t be dramatic.
What can people expect from the rest of the season?
Momma Avery comes back, and she definitely begins to throw a wrench into the happy bubble Jackson and April are in. She brings up some things Jackson and April haven’t thought of. That is going to be a pretty intense episode; however, there are some things that really strengthen them and other things that pull them apart. They have some rocky water ahead of them over the course of the next couple of episodes.
What are some of the favorite things to do on set when not filming?
Well, a few days ago we had a really fun time because I was working with Kevin (plays Owen Hunt) and Camilla (Jo Wilson), and we were live-tweeting—reading tweets, laughing, and enjoying how awesome our fans are. Camilla and I snapped a photo in response to one of the tweets that we got, and we were just laughing hysterically. That’s one of the fun things we like to do. We also like to watch YouTube videos. But sometimes we are more introverted and doing our own thing. It’s a wide variety of things.
You are also in a movie coming out in May called Mom’s Night Out, so could you tell you about it?
Yes, Mom’s Night Out is a really fun, family comedy. It’s sort of like The Hangover meets Adventures in Babysitting. [laughs] I play this stressed out mom of three who is desperate for a night out. Her husband encourages her to go out, so her and her friends go out while her husband and the other dads stay at home with the kids. Everything goes wrong for everybody. It’s just a total disaster after disaster, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny but also really moving. It’s kind of like a love letter to moms for the incredibly hard job that they have, the crazy stressful life they’ve been given. I am so excited about it. People have been going to screenings of it and moms are coming up to me in tears and saying they are grateful to see a movie that represents their lives so well but also makes them laugh cathartically through and cry with. It’s a fun, joyous comedy that you can bring your kid to. You don’t have to worry because there is nothing vulgar or language you have to worry about.
You’re a mom yourself, so did you take from your own experiences?
I don’t think I could have played this character if I wasn’t already a mom. There’s something that happens when you become a mom that just changes your DNA at its core, and I don’t think I could relate in the same way to the character had I not experienced this stuff myself. I feel like this character is so much of me. It was also such a collaborative experience with the team and directors. They really wanted all of us to contribute. We were improving and laughing and creating new moments and adding new ideas. It was this wonderful energy on set where the best idea won. Everybody was so committed to making the best story possible. We had such a ball making this thing.
Do you have a preference for filming a movie or a TV show?
I love them both for very different reasons. Being on the show for five years, I feel like I have been able to see April in different scenarios, and she has become a much more whole person because I have been able to walk through so many different things with her. That’s been really fun. But there is something about being in a movie that is so magical because you get to tell a story from the beginning, middle, and end, and you know the whole story from the beginning. You are getting to take a snapshot and create this one journey in a finite amount of time. There is something about that that I love. There is something about going somewhere with a whole new group of people and basically having a summer camp experience. It’s different than being on a set with the same people day in and day out. They are different kinds of bonding experiences. I really, really love them both. I also feel like I’m closer with the people that I’ve been working with for five years because we have gone through so many chapters of each other’s lives.
When you are not on set filming, what are some of your favorite things to do?
If I’m not working, I’m generally hanging with my little guy who’s two just because I have weird hours, so I like to cram in as much time with him as I can when I have the opportunity. We have little playdates that we take him to, and that pretty much occupies the rest of my time.
What are you looking forward to the rest of the year?
I’m really looking forward to my movie coming out. I’m really excited to see how it’s received. I’m excited for the the culmination of the rollercoaster of this experience. I’m interested to see how it all pans out. I’m also interested in seeing how we begin season 11 with Grey’s. We are going to be so sad to have Sandra leave. It’s going to be a different experience on set. I’m also really looking forward to having a break. My hiatus is coming up, so I’m excited to go on a vacation with my family and have some chill time.
Photo by: Giorgio Litt
Sarah Interview “In Love With a Doctor” originally appeared in Cliché Magazine’s April/May 2014 issue.