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The Small Role Debbie Allen's Sister Played In Grey's Anatomy

"Grey's Anatomy" has been the pinnacle of dramatic television since its premiere. Initially, the show followed surgical intern Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her cohorts as they struggled to keep up with rounds and their personal lives. Some storylines became so iconic that they will never be forgotten. The series has seen actors of amazing caliber come and go, including "Grey's Anatomy" characters portrayed by Sandra Oh, Patrick Dempsey, and Katherine Heigl. While many of these actors have since departed, later seasons still benefit from solid casting choices and Pompeo remains in her title role of Meredith Grey. It goes to show that even in its 18th season, "Grey's Anatomy" shows no indication of slowing down. 

"Grey's Anatomy" has always told stories that are relevant to current events and the Season 17 episode Sign O' the Times" was no different. What made this episode even more impactful, beyond just the subject matter, was the casting of a "Grey's Anatomy" guest star.

Phylicia Rashad appeared as a patient on Grey's Anatomy

Debbie Allen has had a regularly recurring role on "Grey's Anatomy" since she was first cast as Jackson Avery's mother, Catherine, in Season 8. It may surprise audiences to learn that talent runs in the family: Allen's sister is Phylicia Rashad, who has been a mainstay on television since playing Clair Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." She has also appeared in other series such as "Psych" and "This Is Us," as well as the "Grey's Anatomy's" spinoff show, "Station 19." Allen told TVLine in advance of the episode that "My sister Phylicia Rashad will appear in [episode 12] and bring true power, fun, and grace in a role that touches a chord about the voice of the people," a statement that became especially relevant when the episode aired in April.

Rashad's character appeared briefly but was the source of Jackson's conflict for the episode. She played a woman named Nell who was injured during a protest over the death of George Floyd. Jackson and Richard operated to remove a tear gas canister from her shoulder, prompting Jackson to realize that he had never been in a protest while Nell had many scars from them. Jackson asked his mother why they had never protested and was worried that he was not doing enough. Rashad's role was central to the show's focus on issues relevant to American society and made the episode a true family affair.