Tonight, we lose April Kepner and Arizona Robbins who are not only two of Grey’s greatest characters, but TV’s.
When it was announced on March 8th that Grey’s Anatomy would be getting rid of two of it’s lead actresses, Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw, thousands of fans went into the shock. We may have had a couple of months to process their departure, but that definitely didn’t make it any easier.
Meredith Grey’s name may be in the title, but the series has never been about just the one person. Grey’s is an ensemble and over these past 14 seasons we’ve been introduced to so many different characters.
Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) first appeared in our lives back in 2009 in the season 5 episode “Wish You Were Here”. What started off as a multi-episode arc soon developed into a series regular role.
It didn’t take long for Arizona to became popular amongst fans, and the love and appreciation people have for her has only grown stronger throughout the years. Her first major storyline was her relationship with Callie Torres which had fans going crazy, thus “Calzona” was born. The episode “Invest in Love” allowed us to learn more about her character and also included Calzona’s first “I love you”. From here, we watched her be a good man in a storm, start Team Peds with Alex, survive a shooting, move to Africa, come back from Africa, get in a car crash, co-parent with Mark and Callie, get married, get in a plane crash, lose a limb, buy a hospital, lose a baby, have a regrettable affair, repair a marriage, get a divorce, begin a fellowship, have a custody battle and have a few flings here and there.
Jessica Capshaw gave her all to every scene and every story she was given. Even in her darkest days, Arizona remained a symbol of light for fans and her story was no way near finished.
April Kepner (Sarah Drew) was introduced shortly after in the season 6 episode “Invasion”. Her character development over the past 9 seasons has undeniably been the shows best. I adore April, but even I can admit that she took a while to warm up to – but that only adds to her character even more. She’s a symbol of strength to anyone who’s gone through loss and been told they’re not good enough. The people she’s met and things she’s had to go through have built her into the April we know and love now.
After the merger, we watched April get fired, get rehired, stand face-to-face with a shooter and beg for her life, express her religion and confess that she was saving herself for marriage, lose her virginity to her best friend Jackson, fail her boards, get fired and rehired again, become a part of Team Trauma, fall in love with Jackson, get engaged to Matthew, leave Matthew at the alter for Jackson, get married to Jackson, get pregnant, lose her baby Samuel, go off to a war-zone, get divorced, get pregnant again, have a c-section with no anaesthetic, raise Harriet with Jackson, lose her faith (but soon find it again) and have another near death experience.
April grew in confidence and went from being someone who got pushed around, to being a solider. From there, we saw her rip away her “ugly duckling” nickname her sisters gave her and define herself as a swan. Everyone in the show has suffered a number of ordeals, but what April has had to go through has been heart-breaking. Sarah Drew is one of Grey’s best talents and deserves so much acknowledgement for her work as April Kepner over these past 9 years.
April Kepner and Arizona Robbins both provided extremely important and positive representation. Arizona is a lesbian and proudly so. Her sexuality was naturally introduced as just another part of her character. Watching her find happiness and live without fear has provided thousands of people with someone they can relate to and find hope in. She’s also disabled which represents a community who are rarely shown in a series regular role.
April is a devout Christian and her faith has always been a huge part of her character. Her crisis of faith storyline this season has been an integral part of her arc and could’ve opened a lot more doors for future storylines. Even when her faith caused people to judge her and created arguments with Jackson, she never once apologised for it and always stayed true to who she was.
Both characters have also been a part of the shows most popular relationships: Japril and Calzona.
Calzona first begun back in Season 5 and their relationship was on and off until Sara Ramirez’s departure in season 12. They provided hope and happiness to the audience as a whole, but specifically to the LGBTQ+ community.
Positive queer representation is difficult to find in the media, but fans felt they had found a character who would stay in their lives forever when they fell for Arizona’s perky persona. Seeing her and Callie get married and start a family together was not only a highlight in Arizona’s arc, but in Grey’s Anatomy as a whole.
Then, there’s Japril. What started off as a supportive friendship slowly blossomed into a love like no other. Sarah and Jesse Williams’ chemistry and off-screen friendship made Jackson and April impossible not to root for. Regardless of who they’ve met when they’ve been apart, it’s never compared to what they built together. Japril quickly became a fan favourite and with the majority of the show’s other key relationships falling apart, their fans made up a large part of the Grey’s fanbase over recent years and they even got 2 stand alone episodes (Japril the Movie 1 and 2).
Just because we’re losing April and Arizona doesn’t mean the relationships they had are any less real, or in anyway over.
The loss of these two characters is even harder to process because of the amazing actors behind them, and the circumstances under which we’re losing them.
If Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw had decided for themselves that it was their time to depart, I may have been able to understand it. Of course, their loss would still be felt, however it would be our love and respect for them that would make it easier.
However, it wasn’t their decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy, neither was it a decision that seems to make much sense. Their firing came rather abruptly to say the least and doesn’t further the show or it’s narrative in any plausible way. Whilst the reasons for their firing was put down to “creative reasons”, I think we all have our own speculations that probably aren’t too far from the truth.
Sarah and Jessica have dedicated around 10 years each into this show. Their love and passion for it has never once gone unnoticed. Their fellow cast members are like family, their fans are always appreciated and their dedication to their characters has been on another level.
For example, Sarah Drew pitched one of April’s most impactful stories to date when April and Jackson’s unborn baby was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and died just moments after being born. This storyline shone a light on something many people have unfortunately had to go through, but have probably never seen on screen. It was incredibly harrowing to watch, so I can only imagine how emotional it was to film for Sarah – especially as she was heavily pregnant herself when filming.
Then there was Jessica Capshaw’s season 9 storyline where Arizona lost her leg in the plane crash. The majority of this season was understandably very dark for her character. She was not only dealing with PTSD from the crash, but she was coping with the loss of a limb and how to live a normal life without it. This storyline highlighted Jessica’s extraordinary talent that I only wish Grey’s had put to the centre more in other seasons.
So, thank you to Sarah and Jessica for everything you’ve put into this show – the world can’t wait to see what you do next.
Regardless of what has happened, I hope they both know how integral they have been to Grey’s Anatomy.
When they leave, a huge gap will remain which will be impossible to fill.
Read more: Why Grey’s Anatomy Just Made a Huge Mistake