Why Debbie Allen Was Surprised That Grey's Anatomy Didn't End After Season 17

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Debbie Allen Says She Admires Jennifer Lopez & Misty Copeland

Even the stars of Grey’s Anatomy can hardly believe the series still has a pulse.

Actress and director Debbie Allen—who has played Dr. Catherine Fox since 2011—admits she was surprised to hear that the hit ABC medical drama was renewed for a 19th season.

“I thought it was done last season, but the network is like, ‘Uh-uh’, and the fans are like ‘Uh-uh,'” the Fame alum exclusively told E! News’ Daily Pop hosts Justin Sylvester and Loni Love on the April 15 episode. Even the show’s current season 18 was a shock, Allen said, attributing the renewal to season 17’s “incredible” incorporation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Putting Meredith [Ellen Pompeo] in a COVID coma, bringing back all these people on the beach—this was such a responsible show to address COVID in such a way that allowed the people to have their feelings and to have their emotions and to learn things,” Allen said. “It was amazing.”

Having avoided the grim fate of other Grey’s characters, Allen joked that the key to staying alive is to “behave on these shows.” And while it’s all serious on-screen, Allen always has fun when her son, Norman Nixon Jr.—who plays nursing intern James—is on set.

Her son certainly shares his mother’s passion for dance, as Allen shared that she often has to break up his and Pompeo’s dance breaks on set. “He’s running through the sets and doing his own,” she said. “He’s so wonderful, so I love him so much.”

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Along with working as a director and producer on the series, Allen’s other passion is her non-profit organization, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. After recently opening up the academy’s first-ever middle school, the organization just got a brand-new home at the Shonda Rhimes Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.

It was at the center’s opening night that Jada Pinkett Smith made her first red carpet appearance since Will Smith‘s Oscars incident, and Allen was thrilled to see her.

“Jada came. I was so happy Jada came,” she said. “She was just beautiful. That’s my child.”

As a professional dancer of many years—having graced Broadway and the big and small screens—Allen has much admiration for the many women she helped pave the way for, including Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson and more.

Misty Copeland has been the impossible dream for all the brown ballerinas around the world. I wanted to be a ballerina, they told me, ‘No, no,'” she said. “I’m just proud of all of them.”

Check out the full interview in the clip above.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Watch Daily Pop weekdays at 11 a.m., only on E!.

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