Grey's Anatomy: Elizabeth Grullón On McWidow's Tragic Backstory and Party of Five's Diverse Latinx Stories!

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Our world has tilted on its axis, and we're in some unsettling times.

More than ever before, we have found solace in storytelling. We've turned to our trusty fictional worlds to entertain us, to comfort us, and connect us. It makes us feel less alone.

And even with achingly emotional storytelling like some of what transpired on Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 19, with Richard's decline and the sad backstory of Cormac Hayes, it was resonant and transcendent. We could share all of these feelings via our favorite shows together. It gives credence to the "Alone together" mantra.

Elizabeth Grullón

And that sentiment carried over when on a cold, dreary day wrapped up in a blanket, with a mug of tea in hand, I sat in my car, getting some fresh air and space from being cooped up with the same people, discussing the same things.

After some minor mishaps that captured the state we're in where days and hours bleed into each other, I had the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth Grullón about her guest-starring role as Abigail Hayes, Cormac Hayes' wife.

She has an amiable spirit that puts you at ease. She radiates a warmth that can knock the chill out of a brisk day.

She's the type of person you could speak to for hours, which speaks volumes when you're taciturn at best. It's mostly because of how passionate she is about her craft; it's infectious.

For Grullón, her art is the human experience in motion, and she transports you there along with her. It all comes together as one, and that's probably why her presence on Grey's Anatomy was so arresting and resonated with fans despite her brief tenure.

I shared with her that the fandom response to her character and the story as it relates to Cormac Hayes was overwhelmingly positive.

Cormac's Grief - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 19

It was humbling for her to hear and thrilling. It's all she ever could have wanted and strived for, and her awareness of the effect she left was limited.

She's active on Instagram @elizabethagrullon, and also on Twitter @TheEligru. Shower her with love if you're inclined, and you can tell her we sent you if you must.

We discussed her process of connecting to Abigail Hayes, her excitement being on a culturally iconic series. We also discussed her role as Sully on Party of Five, how the series has made strides showing that Latinx culture isn't a monolith, and how she steps into and embraces her Afro-Latinx identity.

I've waxed poetic enough, so check out excerpts from our interview below.

Elizabeth Grullón - Photo 1

How is quarantine life treating you?

You know, I'm really lucky. I have just about the best quarantine situation a person can have. I'm in my home, and I'm alone.

I keep thinking about people who have kids who are supposed to be in school, and they're in their home all day every day trying to figure out how to quarantine them, or people who were living paycheck to paycheck to paycheck, and they're out of the job.

So yeah, I'm just really in gratitude for those things. Hey, I have what I need. I'm healthy. I'm very, very grateful for that, so that's where I'm at.

Getting to Know McWidow - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 11

So, Hayes is such a new character, and fans were eager to learn more about him and his family. Then we finally did. Have you kept up with the fandom response to it? Because it's been overwhelmingly positive.

Really? How do I look at more of that stuff? I always see what -- I have seen comments on Richard [Flood]'s Instagram and my couple. But is there like a forum or something where the fans go?

Fans are everywhere! From Twitter, in the show hashtag talking about it too. I mean, on reviews and recaps like ours, you can read responses in comment sections. Facebook groups, and --

Awww, cool!

And threads where you can talk about episodes on Reddit, and everything. People responded well to your presence on the show with Hayes' storyline.

It was heartbreaking, and it made a lot of people who were on the fence about this character love him. They loved it, and you had a part in it. That backstory, it was, oh god, it was so gut-wrenching.

Yeah.

Abigail Hayes

You broke all of our hearts with those scenes in such a short period. Some have wondered if you're going to come back in flashbacks.

Oh my God, that's so awesome! You know, when we were on set, there were some whispers of "Gosh, if only we could have her come back."

Given what happened in the episode, it would be difficult. But I haven't heard about anything like that happening. But I guess perhaps there could be more flashbacks if we go back deeper into Hayes' previous life. I'm not sure.

That show is such a masterpiece. There are so many characters, so many writers, it would have to be naturally, and fit the creative process, but it's certainly very flattering to hear that people would even be interested in something like that.

We learned so much about Hayes, and it was almost surprising to get that invested in such a short time. It was classic Grey's.

Richard [Flood]'s performance and just his essence, and the quality of him with the story that they wrote, and the way that the writers kind of, it was magic, you know? When the writers create something so perfect for this actor, and it just clicks.

And yeah, I had the same feeling watching it. It was just like "whoa, I'm on this guy's side. I am fighting for him through anything. I don't care who understands him or misunderstands him; I'm on his side.

Yeah, the general sentiment -- it made you so endeared to him because of what he went through. How did you establish that chemistry with Richard Flood? It felt so lived in.

Oh, good!

And I mean, you only had one episode to be with this person and convince everyone of this beautifully tragic love story, and you guys did it.

[laughs] Awesome.

Abigail and Hayes - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 19

So what is that process like and that mindset?

I'm so happy to hear that because yeah, that's definitely a challenge.

Honestly, it was a lot of luck or synchronicity. Or just a blessing because you never know who you're going to get when you show up to work. You're complete strangers. You've never met before, and you're working together for maybe a couple of days, and it could've gone many different ways.

I was fortunate to show up to work and meet the gift of Richard Flood, who in real life, he's a family man, and he's kind, and he's intelligent, and he has that Irish sensibility that's very present in an understated way.

He's just the loveliest person, and that makes it a lot easier. I felt safe immediately. And yeah, it was effortless, it just clicked.

ALLISON LIDDI-BROWN - Tall - Grey's Anatomy

And also, I have to give credit to Allison Liddi-Brown, the director.

Wow, she was incredible. She was present, curious, and people like her -- she exemplified the consummate, very artistic professional. You show up, and you're so present, and there's no judgment. You make people feel comfortable and safe, and you do the job. It's just when that happens, like, I'm doing backflips inside, I'm so happy. 

Abigail: It's OK for you to fall in love again. You have my permission.
Hayes: I don't want that.
Abigail: Which is why you need to hear me say that it's OK.

Abigail's final words to her husband, she was talking about the kids, and it clenched the scene, their foreheads were pressed together, it was such an achingly good scene. Did you get emotional filming?

Of course, it was emotional and difficult. It was the first scene of the day, at 8 a.m. or something, and it was the first thing I did on the job. So it's like, "Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. Nice to meet you. Alright, here we go."

When you're working with good writing, you can tell right away. You're just there. For me, I don't have to do an incredible amount of imaginary work.

When the writing is potent -- there's a saying: "Tears in the writer, tears in the reader. Anger in the writing, anger in the reader." I can feel that, and these scenes I got to do were incredibly written, and all I had to do was get out of my way.

Abigail and Cormac Say Goodbye - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 19

I was tearing up before we even shot it. For me, it's not fake; it's not acting. People live this every day; this is real. It's so heartbreaking, and true, and sad, and you put respect and honor into it because these are people's truths in the world. It's a great honor for me to be able to do that.

There was a lot of emotion, and Allison Liddi-Brown, she said: "Everybody else is falling apart in this scene, not you. You're the one who is strong because when you're about to die, a certain grace comes into the picture."

I can tell how passionate you are about your craft, and as someone watching, it resonated. Your passion for your work comes through.

Yay! Thank you. You have no idea how happy that makes me.

The Hayes Family  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 19

My only real criticism was that I wish it had been longer, and you guys had a whole episode to yourselves. To have that type of reaction speaks volumes.

I'm very grateful. I had actually been auditioning for Grey's Anatomy for years. It's Grey's Anatomy; you want to be on that show. I'm so happy this was the job. It was so special to me.

Switching over to Party of Five, can we expect Sully when the show returns?

I don't know. I hope so.

I do too. For one, it's such a good show giving voice to the Latinx community. That in itself is important, but what made Sully so amazing was having an Afro-Latina represented. How important was it for you to be part of this?

Yes, it was so important. Very quickly, I felt like my work and the jobs I get, they kind of reflect something I'm going through personally in my life and where I'm at in my journey.

That was true with Sully. I was meditating, and had a deeper sense of commitment and love to my community of people of color was coming through me in a very natural way, and " I am this Afro-Latina. My ancestors are from Africa. What all does that mean?"

And I was in this headspace, and then, BOOM! I book this character, and the first time you meet her, she's wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirt. [Laughs]

[Laughs] I was about to say, you had one of the best character introductions on the series. It got my attention immediately.

Awesome. I was like, are you kidding me? This is how I get to be introduced? This total rebel, who is intelligent, and well-spoken, and strong.

It means a lot to me to represent for Afro-Latinas. My mom is very -- she's a living room activist. She's like: "Why, out of all of the Spanish-speaking television, don't you see anyone black and with dark-skin?"

That's why the moment was significant. Sadly, there is a lack of Afro-Latinx representation. And when you do have an Afro-Latinx actor, they're cast to play exclusively black.

Yeah, for years, going for auditions for roles, I was cast to play open ethnicity or black, and that's cool. I am black!

But there's a whole demographic -- another fun, sexy, wild, cool demographic that we're not exploring. And I'm so happy to be working in that niche right now and at the forefront of that, you know? It can't just be Zoe Saldana or Rosario Dawson for the past 20 years. We need fresh blood.

Sully - Party of Five

The show is providing a voice for so many and covering so many issues within the community.

I've been thinking about diversity as more than just race, color, and ethnicity, and Party of Five does that. But what I love about this show too is it's showing the diversity within Latinos. There's someone who is a straight-A student, or someone who is trans and dealing with homelessness like Garcia's character.

Diversity also means diversity in experiences, and views, and styles. Even with me going out for Latino roles, they would be like, "What? Are you even Latino?"

And everyone in the room is the Sofía Vergara type, curvy, long hair, sexy accent, and I'm brown-skinned, skinny, with a huge afro. And this is a very different thing, but I'm 100% Dominican.

Elizabeth Grullon - 2

But we're on the edge of going past that main dish that we've been serving for years saying our experiences are incredibly diverse, the way we think, the way we look, and it's fascinating to get into that a bit.

And this show does that; we have a show all about Latinos, and it's about family and love, versus drugs, etc.

You're right, and that's why it's so good. It shows that the experience isn't a monolith. It goes into all the nuances of things within the Latinx community, like the immigration issue. Beto's teacher felt strongly about it when she said: "I came here the right way."

Right!

The Studious One - Tall  - Party of Five Season 1 Episode 3

They explore all of that, like Lucia clashing with the "traditional" feminine/maternal role that her mother holds, and it interferes with how she connects with her mother compared to Valentina, who loves and embraces that.

It seems Lucia has a crush on Sully, or that she's in love with her, but it also felt like, aside from the attraction, she craves the maternal vibe that Sully gave her too. It helped her connect with another woman outside of her mother, who had similar viewpoints, stances, and still had that nurturing vibe.

Yeah, I think it's a mixed bag. It's a bit more complex than a crush. This girl -- the first time Lucia sees Sully, she's standing up to immigration officers. Those are the people who pulled her parents away, and Sully is standing up in an intelligent way. She has facts, information -- she's calm and concerned.

It's like if you have a lot of anger bottled up in you, and you see another person who has that same anger, but they learned how to channel it. And you see them, and you're like, "whoa, what's that?" It gives her hope.

This is me speculating. I'm not Emily [Tosta]. I don't play Lucia, so I don't know her process, but in terms of the writing, it makes sense.

Sully Asks Lucia a question  - Party of Five

The writers have shown us this girl with so much anger. She's so lost, and she meets this person with a sense of purpose who is channeling this anger in a healthy way.

Yeah, that mentorship, a strong female role model when her mother is gone, someone who is independent, not judging her, and not judging others. I think all of that is very attractive to a young girl.

And for Sully, it grows, and Sully sees so much potential -- unadulterated potential in this young girl. And she picks up on her need for structure. It changes both of the women in a way that they didn't expect.

It was a very layered relationship that blossomed so quickly. There were so many intriguing parts of this dynamic. It had so many elements. I love all the complicated, messy things you can't put into a category.

It's very easy to think of the mentor who isn't changed or affected. They're the ones with authority, but there is this moment when Lucia is vomiting in the bathroom because she drank too much, and she's telling me about myself.

Sully's Encouragement  - Party of Five

"You're strong, and this and that," and it hit me, Elizabeth, in a different way. It changed and affected me deeply to realize that she's right, this young 16-year-old girl is right and sees me -- my character in a deeper way than the other adults my character hangs out with.

When Lucia sees her, it unexpectedly touches Sully, and that's when she's like, "You need to sleep in the guest room." That's when the work reflects real life because it touched me in that moment.

If you missed Elizabeth's moving appearance as Abigail Hayes, you can watch Grey's Anatomy online.

And if you haven't already, you should catch up on Freeform's Party of Five reboot. You can watch Party of Five online here via TV Fanatic as well.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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