September 24, 2015 06:25 PM

In three seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, Jerrika Hinton’s character Dr. Stephanie Edwards has seen her fair share of drama.

Her fellow intern died in a freak electrocution. She dated sensitive plastic surgeon Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams), only to have him publicly dump her at a wedding for the runaway bride, Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew). Oh, and she faced suspension after lying to cover for her boss, the crusading Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), injecting a patient with HIV against his parents’ consent. (For the record, her method totally worked.)

Jerrika Hinton
Riker Brothers

But when Grey’s returns Thursday night, Hinton says fans will get to learn more about Stephanie’s past – beyond the fact that she paid her own way through college on a cheerleading scholarship.

“I’m just really excited about living more fully within her as a person,” Hinton, 34, tells PEOPLE. “Once you discover more about where a person came from and what demons they’re carrying, obviously that informs so much about where they want to be and the circumstances around them, and it’s gratifying to finally be able to delve into that.”

Read on for scoop on the new season, hints about Stephanie and Jackson rekindling something and to learn how leading lady Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is coping after McDreamy’s tragic death.

What’s going on with Edwards when Grey’s picks up again?
We just finished shooting episode 5, and a lot of stuff comes out for everyone, a lot of revelations, with Edwards included. But specifically in episode 4, you’re going to find out a lot more about her that’s going to make her a fuller person, about her back story and more with regard to her relationships with people in the hospital.

Any hope for her portal vein trial with Meredith?
As it stands we don’t see that pick up again. I think that Stephanie, she’s had really unique working relationships with all of the attendings, most notably Meredith and Amelia (Caterina Scorsone). And we saw last season that Stephanie and Amelia really developed an unusual bond. Our show is really great at exploring vulnerability and things like that through romantic relationship and platonic as well, but usually when we see it through platonic relationships, it’s between actual peers. And what’s developing between Amelia and Stephanie is really a really deep, rich, complex relationship, and it’s not in the traditional Grey’s romantic way. Amelia and Stephanie are kind of going down a path together.

Will she get a new love interest? Everyone is rooting for her after all the horrible things she’s been through!
Yeah, she’s got the worst luck! You will see a new love interest. It’s going to take some time. I think it’s great to get to understand her as a person first before you see her go into another romantic relationship. As an actor, I feel very fortunate that I get to explore her on a human level and not just through the product of her being someone’s love interest.

But it looks like Jackson and April are on the rocks. Even on a friendship level, is the dynamic between Jackson and Stephanie going to be explored more? Are they able to move past what’s happened? She was supportive when they lost their baby.
Yeah, that’s complex (laughs). There’s a moment in the episode that we just filmed that had us questioning the writers’ intention, and I don’t quite know, to be very, very honest with you. I don’t know what’s happening there, but they have been able to move past their particular dark history.

From left: Jerrika Hinton, Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo
Bob D'Amico/ABC; Vivian Zink/ABC/Retna

What was it like on set shooting without Patrick Dempsey?
We’re excited about treading new territory, honestly. I know that Derek was a big, big part of the bloodline of the show, and we’re finding new and rich ways to explore not just what that loss means to the family within the show but also explore what possibilities that creates story-wise. And some of the stuff that the writers have come up with is really interesting, and it only could have come as a result of losing that very special and important member of our family.

Where does the premiere pick up? Are we going to see Meredith still mourning or is she moving on?How do you move on right away? You can’t. The love of your life dies. That’s going to take some time. If anything, you saw at the end of last season we already had a time jump. She disappeared for a while and then we jumped ahead a bit in time. I think we’ve got to respect her process and respect the audience’s process, as well. And to do another time jump wouldn’t be wise, so this picks up right at the end of last season.

Grey’s Anatomy premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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