Grey's Anatomy is going to look a little different this season.
During the season 18 finale in May, Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital's residency program was shut down by the review board leaving residents Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli), Taryn Helm (Jaicy Elliot) and Mabel Tsang (Sylvia Kwan). The shocking decision also led to Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) quitting as Chief of Surgery, leaving Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) in charge.
But all of that change has opened the door for a new crop of first-year surgical residents. Here, Adelaide Kane, Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho, Midori Francis and Harry Shum Jr. open up to PEOPLE about their characters, their first days on set, the challenges of being rookies on a long-running drama series, the advice original cast members have offered them and how they're bringing back season 1 nostalgia.
Liliane Lathan/ABC Adelaide Kane, Midori Francis, Niko Terho, Alexis Floyd and Harry Shum Jr. in Grey's Anatomy
In an exclusive first look photo from season 19, the five new residents look completely defeated after a daunting shift — an image that evokes the five original interns from season 1: Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, T.R. Knight, Justin Chambers, and Katherine Heigl.
abc T.R. Knight, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh, Ellen Pompeo and Justin Chambers in Grey's Anatomy
"We have a few scenes that I think are going to [call back to] some of the original episodes," Francis says. "Anyone who's feeling nostalgic, I think they're going to feel it get played in. Everything that everyone has ever loved about Grey's will still be there."
"All of these characters that the fans have loved and watched for all these years will still be there," she adds. "But now that you're adding five new interns, we're going to mess things up. Mistakes are plentiful."
Now, the new residents are gearing up for the ride of a lifetime — and promising lots of twists and turns along the way.
The Australian actress, 32, joins the cast as Dr. Jules Millin.
"Jules is one of those young women that was raised by sort of hippy-dippy parents who were always stoned all the time and has ended up raising them and herself," Kane says. "She somehow ended up being a grownup despite it all. She's really funny in that she very resentfully is into crystals and tarot and astrology in a very low-key way."
"It's a miracle that she got through medical school," adds Kane. "She can be a little bit bossy. She can be a little bit overbearing sometimes, but she has a really good heart and just a lot of love and a lot of kindness to give when she gets out of her own way."
In our exclusive clip of the new residents earlier this week, Jules also reveals she's slept with Dr. Atticus Lincoln (Chris Carmack) before working with him. (Derek and Meredith deja vu, anyone?)
Kane, who first gained recognition for her role as Lolly Allen in the Aussie soap opera Neighbours in 2006, also starred on The CW's Reign from 2013 to 2017 and appeared in Once Upon a Time, Teen Wolf and SEAL Team. For her, the idea of joining an iconic show like Grey's was "surreal."
"I just was so excited," she says. "My mother is a nurse and a nurse educator. So when I was younger she used to encourage me to grow up and be a doctor. Well, I'm not a doctor, but at least I'm playing one on TV!"
"The work is fun and the work is truly fascinating," she adds. "They've been putting us through medical boot camp. My level of obsessive interests with the stuff they're teaching us is a little unhinged. I have a slab of synthetic skin that they gave me to practice suturing on."
While Kane admits it was a bit "intimidating" walking onto set as a rookie, she says the cast and crew have been "incredibly welcoming."
"They have just really made themselves available to answer any of our questions and talk to us about the projects and give us advice," says Kane, who received some great words of advice from longtime cast member Caterina Scorsone, who portrays Dr. Amelia Shepherd.
"Repeating lines and going through scenes when you're sitting on your couch is a completely different experience than when you're running down a hallway with a stethoscope in one hand and a pen and a notebook in the other in sneakers," she says. "I've been practicing, I've been rehearsing all of my lines while doing my little chores around the house since then. And it has made it so much easier."
At the end of the day, Kane says she's grateful for the opportunity and hopes to continue the Grey's legacy.
"Being on set from cast through the crew, the diversity, people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds, sexualities, it feels very safe," she says. "Everyone is heard and listened to and respected and included. And I do truly think that's the future of film and TV, is exactly what the Grey's set is like."
"I can sincerely hope that I can continue, in my own small way, the legacy that is Grey's," she adds.
"She's good with people," Midori says of Yasuda, who is a middle child of eight siblings. "I've noticed she's a jerk to the guys like Harry and Niko's characters. It's definitely revealed that she's resourceful and scrappy, but making it work. Because these are long hours. A lot is required of her. Not all of us can be staying in cushy, comfortable living situations, but Mika's making it work."
While Francis says she was still really young when Grey's Anatomy first premiered in 2005, she recalls one very important factor that has stuck with her throughout the years.
"I remember just seeing Sandra Oh [as Dr. Cristina Yang] on TV at that time when the show premiered and it was a very big deal for me as a young kid who never saw myself represented in anyway," she says. "To see an Asian Canadian American on TV, I just remember that. I remember all my friends who watched it loved Cristina Yang. And it was such an empowering moment for me of television history. So subconsciously when I saw Grey's Anatomy come through my inbox, I immediately felt that like, 'Oh.' Like a gut instinct like, 'Yes, this is right. This is something I have to pursue.'
Francis says her time on set has been overwhelming in so many ways, but admits the longtime cast members have made it a point to make the newbies feel comfortable — even if includes some playful hazing.
"I had scenes with Kevin [McKidd] and Kim [Raver], and Kim hazed me, but in the funniest possible way," she says. "She could fully see that I was competent, confident, and prepared, and wouldn't have done it otherwise. There was a moment when the camera was just on me and I had to exit a scene and it required me taking my gloves off. Believe it or not, putting new gloves on and then taking them off in an efficient and speedy manner is much harder than it might look. And so, she was basically just counting how long it took. She was like, 'Oh, she doesn't have them back on guys. It's okay, Midori. We're not waiting for you.' It was actually perfect because my character was supposed to be very overwhelmed by her and Kevin fighting. I was sweating, but she gave me a big hug afterwards. It was really fun!"
Harry Shum Jr.
The Crazy Rich Asians and Glee actor, 40, will play Benson "Blue" Kwan, "a sharp-witted, impatient, and brilliant first-year surgical resident at Grey Sloan," according to a release. "He's generous by nature but competitive to a fault, naturally gifted, and used to winning at everything. A family crisis interfered with his career plans and now he's got a lot to prove."
"For a show that's been on for this long, you would think, 'Okay, everyone is just doing the same thing.' But coming on to set, it was a completely different energy that I was expecting," says Shum. "Even the actors that have been there since the beginning were not just welcoming, but also invigorated."
"The writers are really crafting some really interesting and fresh takes, while also infusing in the storylines that I think people have grown to love or find some comfort in as well," he adds.
When it comes to his character Blue, Shum says, "He was used to winning blue ribbons and medals and being No. 1 until his mother died — and tragically. It just destroyed him and he hit a wall."
"And so he's a little later as an intern and coming into this, and has a hopeful life," he continues. "All the interns have a hopeful life that they've crafted that we're going to explore. I'm really excited to dive deeper into it because it just gives so much wealth to figure out who these people are and why they even decide to become doctors."
"The first day we got to meet Chandra and James [Pickens Jr.], and it was iconic," says Shum. "It was an iconic moment. Chandra, she just gave us this beautiful, just very, almost life advice of just be yourself on set, on the show, and try and contribute in so many ways that feel very true to yourself. I think that's why the show has gone on for so long. I think that advice has been given over time and has been utilized in so many beautiful ways."
Another memorable moment for Shum during his first day on set was meeting Pompeo.
"The first day, she gave us a beautiful plant that all of the interns have, so we just try to make sure that it's healthy and staying alive throughout the whole season," Shum explains. "Her first day, she had this massive monologue, pages and pages, and she was just so gracious with her time, and giving us advice, and just welcoming us to the OR."
"I look at her as someone who's so iconic, who's been doing this for so many years, but still again, having such a fresh energy, which is really inspiring," he adds.
The actress and star of Netflix's Inventing Anna, 28, joins as Dr. Simone Griffin.
"She's a hard worker," Floyd says of her character, a Seattle native. "She has a personal, as well as sort of a political, drive to her work in the hospital. She's really there, heart and soul, and it's a challenging place for her to be, but it also invigorates her. I think that she sees the potential for this place to not only empower her as a physician, but to be a place of foundational change in the field of medicine. She's there with a lot of purpose and drive."
"She's definitely very focused, but also has a huge heart and a really intimate connection to her family who you'll see as well throughout the show," she continues. "You'll see her grow and change due to their influence, especially with her grandmother and a complicated relationship with her sister and father. You're going to see her grow as a person, as a doctor, and see how those things inner work which is a special thing for her."
Floyd, who first rose to fame as Tia Clayton in Freeform's The Bold Type, says she was "blown away" when she received the news that she would be joining the iconic show.
"As you know intimately, this is a cornerstone of television," she says. "People have truly grown up with the show, watching the show and that was my first thought was thinking about the audience and honoring their commitment to the show for going on two decades and how I could honor and celebrate everything about the show that makes it one of a kind and energize this space with some new energy."
"Simone already such a full and complex character, but I wanted to have her be someone that the audience who already knows and loves the show could relate to," she adds. "Also I want to give an opportunity for new audience members to join the party. My first thought was definitely about viewership and joining this community of watchers and artists behind the scenes too."
While Floyd says she "wasn't allowed" to watch Grey's when it first premiere because of her young age, she recently "binged" all the seasons and completely feel in love.
"I think one of the many things the show does so well is really introduce you to people in an intimate way so quickly," she says. "Before you know it, these are your friends, these feel like your family members, you see yourself in them and you care about them and you're worried about them and you celebrate with them."
The Thing About Harry star — which also starred Terho's now-two-time costar Borelli — joins the cast as Dr. Lucas Adams.
"He comes from a family of surgeons and they're all really good at what they do, so he's always kind of been in their shadow," Terho says of his character. "He is really determined to prove himself. He's always been seen as a black sheep of this family. He's very motivated to make a name for himself outside the family legacy.
Raised in Barbados, Terho — who was recruited to play professional soccer in England when he was 15 — is fairly new to Hollywood.
"I don't think it's all sunk in, and I don't really know if I want it to sink in," he admits. "It's pretty crazy. It just all happened so quickly that you kind of get sucked into the whirlwind of it all, and you don't really have a lot of time to think."
"Every now and then you'll find yourself on set and you just take a step back and you're like, 'Wait.' You see all the cameras and everything. You're like, 'We're shooting Grey's Anatomy right now. This is pretty remarkable!'"
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Grey's Anatomy season 19 premieres Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.