Japril Forever! ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Alum Jesse Williams Is ‘Proud’ of What He and Sarah Drew Created

The actor discusses his onscreen relationship exclusively with PEOPLE and why it came across as 'authentic and real'

During his run on Grey’s Anatomy, Jesse Williams left a strong impression on the popular medical drama’s legion of loyal viewers.

The actor became a fan favorite for his portrayal of Dr. Jackson Avery, the head of Plastic Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital for 12 seasons and more than 250 episodes before his departure from Grey’s Anatomy in May 2021.

One major plot viewers became invested in was the relationship between Jackson and Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew) — Jackson’s ex-wife and mother of his child.

“I take some credit for that,” Williams tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Sarah and I worked really hard on forming and shaping those characters to make sense.”

Jesse Williams on Greys anatomy 2019.

One of the benefits of working on Grey’s Anatomy was the writers were receptive to the cast’s feedback.

“They’re not rolling their eyes when you knock on the writer’s door saying, ‘Hey, I have a question about this. I want to talk about this,’” he shares. “You’re not a pain in the a–, and you’re actually helping them do their job. You could go home, but you’re coming over here to work on this. There’s energy and pride in giving them something authentic and real. I’m proud of the work we did, and I think that’s reflected in the audience and their response in what we’ve seen so far.”

Since leaving the show, Williams has returned as a guest star and to direct the season 19 episode “When I Get to the Border.” He doesn’t discount the possibility of coming back in some capacity, either.

“They ask me to direct once a year,” he admits. “I always loved that place. I’m always happy to entertain the idea of coming back to direct or make an appearance. The door is open for me. It’s almost like a reunion, a university. I’m an alumni of a university.”

The actor has certainly branched out after Grey’s, starring in the Broadway revival of Take Me Out as Darren Lemming, a gay baseball player who comes out in the prime of his career — a performance that earned Williams his first Tony nomination.

Take Me Out Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse Williams

Williams also currently stars in the third season of Only Murders in the Building, playing a documentarian alongside Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, following the suspicious death of actor Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd).

“I’m trying to be around people with an incredible amount of experience and wisdom to share,” he explains. “I am not somebody who looks to be the big fish in a small pond. I like to learn. I like to be wrong. That is how I see my career opportunities.”

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