- The “Grey’s Anatomy” episode “Get Up, Stand Up” aired 8 years ago, on December 12, 2013.
- It’s best remembered for the moment when Jackson Avery interrupts April Kepner’s wedding.
- Sarah Drew (April) and Jesse Williams (Jackson) reflect on the scene in a conversation with Insider.
December 12, 2013, is a day that every “Grey’s Anatomy” fan remembers, for better or worse. It’s the airdate of the midseason finale of season 10, titled “Get Up, Stand Up.”
As the episode’s name suggests, Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) literally stands up at his ex April Kepner’s (Sarah Drew) wedding to paramedic Matthew Taylor (Justin Bruening) and delivers his own vows to the bride before Matthew has a chance to utter a word.
Jackson: “I love you, April. I always have. I love everything about you. Even the things I don’t like, I love. And I want you with me. I love you, and I think that you love me, too. Do you?”
Eight years later, we know that April’s answer to Jackson’s question was some form of “yes.” On the very next episode, we watch her run out of the barn with Jackson, and we learn they’ve gotten married at the end of the hour. But there are still so many questions fans have about that moment.
So, Insider joined Drew and Williams for an intimate conversation to reflect on this pivotal moment for their characters, now that both actors have moved on from “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Jackson standing up at April’s wedding is an iconic “Grey’s Anatomy” moment. But interestingly, the writers chose not to show the immediate aftermath of Jackson’s declaration of love or April’s exact response, instead skipping right over to them running out of the chapel. Drew and Williams have some ideas about how the (admittedly pretty awkward) unseen moment could’ve played out.
Drew: I’ve thought about [the aftermath] too, because we cut straight to us running in slow motion from the barn, and then into the car, which is part make-out, part freak-out. I don’t think I stayed to make a speech. I mean, I think I probably looked at Matthew, said “I’m sorry,” and ran.
Williams: Yeah. I think I looked at him like, “You saw this coming.”
Drew: And he’s like, “No, I didn’t. In no world was this going to be a possibility on my wedding day.”
Williams: “I did a flash mob for this shit?”
And neither Drew or Williams can believe that April did end up marrying her once-jilted fiancé Matthew years after Jackson interrupted April and Matthew’s first wedding, in a storyline that’s much-maligned by Japril fans.
Drew: If you really investigate that moment though, it makes the fact that Matthew and April wound up getting married for five seconds, many years later, that much harder to believe. How do you recover from someone doing that to you?
Williams: That means you guys stood at an altar again. If I was Matthew, I would just do it Vegas-style, I couldn’t go through a whole ceremony again. First of all, the food and beverage costs alone.
Drew: Forget it; inviting everyone just to be humiliated a second time.
While the whole “interrupting a wedding” thing is undoubtedly a much-used TV trope — and one that can come off as very cheesy — Williams’ heartfelt performance made the moment feel emotionally honest to Japril fans.
Williams: There was an iconic [wedding interruption] on “A Different World ” between Dwayne and Whitley, which I was pretty young and vaguely remembered, but it happens in a lot of romcoms, right?
Drew: Pretty much every romcom. Every wedding in every romcom.
Williams: There’s “Grey’s Anatomy” scenes, and there’s Japril scenes. It’s not really tied to the show or you don’t have to worry about whether it’s cheesy or try to make it work, because our stuff was its own tunnel. We made all of our shit really real, or else we didn’t do it. Or else we’d keep the writers overnight or else we’d be in the parking lot crying.
At the time the episode aired, Jackson was dating another character named Stephanie, who was actually Jackson’s date to April and Matthew’s wedding. While many fans rooting for Japril adored the moment, some viewers said they were bothered by the idea of Jackson, a Black man, publicly humiliating Stephanie, a Black woman, with his grand, very public gesture to April. Williams, a well-known advocate for Black rights and social justice, thought about that, too, but says it isn’t about race.
Williams: That’s something that’s top of my consciousness and we talked a lot about and work through. But Jackson didn’t plan this; he didn’t twist his mustache and set somebody up to get screwed over. He wouldn’t have ever wished this upon Stephanie. He wouldn’t have ever designed it this way. He didn’t plan to do it. It was the last resort, and he went with his gut in that moment. And he apologized for it right before he did it.
Stephanie’s pain and experience is real and legitimate, no matter what degree it’s at. But we were dating. April was engaged to be married to this dude [Matthew]. They had made a commitment, and spent money, and got dressed and had their family. The real bad guy is —
Drew: Me. I’m the worst guy. I’m the worst guy in this situation.
Williams: It’s fucked up. It’s not a nice thing to do to anybody, but it’s better for them ultimately, because they’re living in the truth. If I bottle it up and I live in regret and I’m looking at you, but I’m longing for somebody else, that’s not beneficial to you. That’s actually a worse torture. That’s a thousand cuts.
That dynamic was something I’m highly aware of, and had there been some larger issue ongoing, it would’ve meant more and I would’ve stopped it, or changed it, or argued to do something different. But I think we did a good job on that show and with the narratives and with the character development to be effortlessly, consciously egalitarian in the way nobody’s getting beat on the head in terms of race, or gender, or sexual orientation.
We had a pretty damn good good track record there, so I think that it really was between Stephanie and Jackson. It wasn’t about race.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is fiction, so Jackson could have confessed his love to April in any number of jaw-dropping ways before she actually made it down the aisle. But neither Drew nor Williams would change a thing about April’s wedding.
Drew: I mean, I think it was pretty damn romantic.
Williams: I think it was pretty cool and fitting. This relationship allowed them to be impulsive. Think about the side conversations, the on-call rooms, the hurried discussions and different high-pressured scenarios. It’s just purely frantic and honest. With each other, they were able to just wing it, and sometimes, that’s reckless. Sometimes that’s so perfectly honest that it propels them forward for a period of time.
Drew: And with Jackson, there’s this, “I’m going to just tear the box off of what everybody has put on me and what I’ve put on myself, and do the thing that my heart wants.” And I don’t think there’s any other way to have played that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jesse Williams will make his Broadway debut in “Take Me Out” at the Hayes Theater in March.
Sarah Drew will next appear in the sitcom “Amber Brown” for Apple TV+ in spring 2022.