Grey’s Anatomy: Kevin McKidd’s Owen Hunt Survived Falling Off a Cliff

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SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “No Time to Die,” the Feb. 24 episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

When viewers last saw Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) in December’s “Grey’s Anatomy” midseason finale cliffhanger, he literally fell off a cliff, seemingly to his death.

In that episode, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Owen, his wife Teddy (Kim Raver) and Hayes (Richard Flood) had gone to retrieve a donor heart for Owen’s nephew, Farouk (Bardia Seiri), who would die without it — which would destroy Megan (Abigail Spencer), Owen’s sister. The trio of doctors had gone in order to ensure that nothing would go wrong with the transfer. But this is “Grey’s Anatomy,” so suffice it to say, something did: Their driver had a massive stroke, causing the car to veer off the road, and perch precipitously at the edge of a cliff. At Owen’s insistence, Teddy was able to get out of the car safely with the heart, and Hayes followed her, leaving Owen to — as previously stated — go over the cliff in the car.

Yet in “No Time to Die” we saw that it was not in fact Owen’s time to die. Instead, he suffered a serious leg fracture, one that required surgery, and may have resulted in paralysis (but seemingly has not). It had been awhile, McKidd pointed out in an interview Thursday, since Owen had been “in real physical harm and jeopardy.” Not since the show’s Season 6 finale, he said, when a gunman loose in the hospital shot Owen and nearly killed him, were it not for Meredith (Ellen Pompeo). “He’s kind of dodged a lot of these bullets, if you will, over the seasons,” McKidd said with a laugh. “And so it was kind of Owen’s turn, I think.”

Kevin McKidd as Owen Hunt
Courtesy of ABC/Mike Rosenthal

McKidd said he knew when he learned of the story that no, he wasn’t being killed off without having been told — but yes, it’s always nerve-racking when your character seemingly falls to his death: “Obviously, I was kind of nervous. You know, ‘Maybe I need to find another job!’”

The “Grey’s Anatomy” fandom is an intense one, and there are those who love Owen and others who wouldn’t mind if he did die. McKidd takes it all in stride, saying, “If somebody hates your character, I don’t think it stops them being a fan.”

And McKidd finds flaws in Owen too. “He’s a very imperfect guy,” he said. “He makes mistakes. He’s hot-headed. He’s impulsive — very impulsive sometimes. And I think that can rub people the wrong way. But I also think he has a great heart.”

One of the impulsive things Owen has done in Season 18 of “Grey’s Anatomy” is illegally assist the death of Noah (Johnny Rey Diaz), a veteran sickened by burn pits in the wars in the Middle East. When Owen thought he was about to die, he implored Hayes to do the same with the other veterans suffering from debilitating illnesses who’ve been unable to get help, or even acknowledgment, from the VA. Owen’s confession caused a crisis of conscience in Hayes of the “first, do no harm” kind, and he decided to quit Grey Sloan and return home to Ireland. (Whether Flood is officially leaving the show has yet to be announced, and representatives from ABC would not comment on the matter.)

Hayes quitting is one thing; Teddy is no fool, and knows something Owen said prompted Hayes to take that drastic action, as she said to him in the episode’s final moments. “Teddy and Owen have to really work through it,” McKidd said about the upcoming episodes of the show. “And it gets pretty intense, and causes some real strife and anguish between them.”

McKidd joined the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” in Season 5 in 2008, meaning he’s played Owen for an astounding 14 seasons. He’s also become one of the show’s regular directors, and was calling from the set where he’s currently directing Episode 15 (one of three he’ll direct this season). He’d never directed anything before, he said, but in the show’s seventh season, he approached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes to ask whether he could shadow directors in the hope of doing it himself one day. “She was so supportive of me doing that,” McKidd said.

He’s now lost count of how many he’s directed, but the number is in the mid-thirties. “I’ve really learned how to do this on the job, not in a classroom setting, but on the factory floor, if you will,” McKidd said.

“Grey’s Anatomy” has already been renewed for next season. But it’s starting to feel like the end, McKidd said: “It feels like we’re kind of in the last chapter of the show — that may be one more season or more seasons: I don’t know.”

McKidd plans on sticking with it until the end. “Sitting here right now, yes, I do,” he said. “I still think there’s some really great stories to tell for the character. And I’m really proud of the show still — to be part of the show, to play my role in the show. I still feel engaged. I love the people here, and I think the writers do amazing work.”

After all, how often does an actor get to play a role for this many years?

“It’s really fascinating to have this almost chronological record of your own life, because inexorably the character and your own personality kind of merge at a certain point,” McKidd said. “I’m so invested in this character. But it’s a completely different experience playing a character over years and years and years than just doing one movie, obviously. Because there is no beginning, middle and end: It’s just the life of a character that you’re living.

“So from this point, until wherever it ends, I just want to savor it,” he continued. “Really savor every minute. Because it probably won’t happen again. It’s a once-in-a-career type thing.”

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