Ellen Pompeo and Shonda Rhimes Reflect on Grey’s Anatomy’s Bomb Explosion
Of all the catastrophes that have befallen Grey Sloan Memorial, none was more-watched than the bomb blast in Season 2.
38 million people tuned in after Super Bowl XL in 2006 to watch the first half of the two-parter, “It’s the End of the World,” in which Meredith sticks her hand into a bazooka-shot patient to stabilize the live ammunition inside his chest.
25 million people returned the following week to watch “As We Know It,” in which the surgeons extricate the ammunition and the bomb squad carts it away.
As Meredith walks out of the OR behind the squad leader, played by Kyle Chandler — and as an Anna Nalick song lulls us into a false sense of security — the bomb explodes.
“I remember having to talk it through with [then ABC Entertainment Group president] Stephen McPherson,” Shonda tells Entertainment Weekly now.
“It was a big deal that we were doing the Super Bowl episode, so I wanted to make sure it was something they wanted to do. He seemed fine with it.”
“It was a very ambitious proposition,” adds Peter, the director of the two-parter.
“There were a number of long days because of that. When that explosion scene came up, the only way you get through it is with a tremendous amount of prep.
“We worked on how we wanted to do it, what walls we wanted to collapse, what lights we wanted to fall.”
Shonda always knew the bomb scene would involve Meredith, and she doesn’t think any of the other actors envied Ellen.
To hear Ellen tell it, the shoot was so exhausting, so the blast wasn’t a blast:
“It was very late at night when we filmed it,” the actress says.
“I had been working something like 17 hours. I was exhausted, so I was excited that I didn’t have to do the stunt.
“They had this amazing stunt girl who was going to do it for me. They strapped her to a cable so they could pull her back when Kyle blows up.”
“The stunt double was fairly young,” Peter remembers.
“She wasn’t quite prepared for when she got yanked, having landed on her back and getting her head snapped back. And boy, did it. You could hear it.
“As stunt people do, she immediately sat up and said, “I’m fine.” But clearly she had whacked her head hard, so she had to go through concussion protocol.”
Peter wasn’t satisfied with that the one take filmed with the stunt woman, so he turned to Ellen.
“We had a knock-down, drag-out fight because he insisted I do the stunt.
“I said, ‘A f—king professional stuntwoman just gave herself a concussion doing it. I’ve been working 18 hours. I can barely see straight. Now you want me to try it?’”
“He was adamant. I was adamant. We were screaming at each other,” Ellen continues.
“I even said to him, ‘Why are you even making me do this? You’re going to use that take with her head bouncing off the floor,’ because it looked amazing. It was like slow motion.
“Anyway, I ended up doing it, despite me not wanting to. And of course they used the first take.”
Ellen and Peter are still at odds, it seems. He disagrees with her version of events:
“If you look in the episode, you will see the stunt girl hit her head. We left that in. It had been very effective. But we used part of Ellen’s take, which is the part she never remembers.
“We never would have put her in jeopardy. We pulled her much slower than we pulled the stunt double.”
That said, everyone concurs that Kyle Chandler was a champ, destined for the kind of fame he’d later find on Friday Night Lights.
“I remember thinking Kyle Chandler was amazing,” Ellen says. “I wasn’t surprised his career really took off after that because he was so natural.”
Even Shonda didn’t want Dylan to die once she met Kyle, but she still prioritized the story.
“He would pitch me ideas on how Dylan, his character, could maybe not explode, and I would show him the line in the script that said, ‘Dylan explodes,’” she recalls. “That’s literally all it said.”
Plus, everyone agrees it’s an iconic moment — in retrospect, at least.
“Nothing seemed as monumental back then because we had no idea how long this show would run or how iconic these moments would become,” Ellen says.
“It was the highlight of Grey’s Anatomy in all of its 12 years,” Peter adds. “It was a special moment when it all came together in just the right way.”
If that sounds a little self-aggrandizing, perhaps it’s because “As We Know It” was the last episode Peter ever directed — but you can’t say he didn’t go out with a bang.
Grey’s Anatomy Season 13 airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m ET on ABC.
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