Robbins has been characterised as "quirky", and is well known for wearing roller skates and a Holly Hobbie pink hat, designed to appeal to her younger patients. She was established as a love-interest for orthopaedic resident Callie Torres. Series creator Shonda Rhimes was in contrast pleased with the chemistry between Robbins and Torres, citing the addition of Capshaw to the cast as an element of the season of which she was most proud. Initial media reaction to the character was positive. Matt Mitovich of TV Guide described her as a "fan favourite", and Chris Monfette for IGN praised the addition of "fresh, new characters", such as Robbins over the course of the season.
Life Before Grey's AnatomyEdit
Arizona is the child of Colonel Daniel Robbins and was raised as an army brat alongside her brother. She moved about a lot and was raised to believe in her country and to be "a good man in the storm". She always knew of her sexuality and had initial concerns about her father's reaction, but he made peace with who she was when she reminded him that she was still who he raised her to be.
She had to experience her brother's death while he was fighting for their country, something which she struggled with greatly and never truly moved on from. She was Chief Resident during her residency at Johns Hopkins.
Following the death of Dr. Jordan Kenley, Chief Richard Webber replaces his head of paediatric surgery with Dr. Arizona Robbins. Robbins has a romantic interest in orthopaedic attending Callie Torres and kisses her. The two embark on a relationship, but when Torres' father, Carlos, learns of the relationship, he threatens to cut her off financially unless she returns home with him. When Torres' father returns to Seattle and continues to reject his daughter's sexuality, Robbins is able to convince him to reconsider. She tells Mr. Torres that her father was able to accept her own sexuality, as she promised him she was still the "good man in a storm" he raised her to be, and that Torres is still the same person he raised. Torres is dismayed to learn that Robbins doesn't want children, and the two come to a conclusion that they cannot continue their relationship, as they both want different things. However after a shooter enters Seattle Grace with a vendetta for Derek Shepherd, Lexie Grey and Richard Webber, they are in lockdown together, and the two reconcile.
Robbins receives word that she has been given a grant to go to Malawi, and become a doctor there. In the end, Torres is shown to have accepted this as well and has decided to leave with Robbins. However, a fight at the airport results in Robbins leaving for Malawi without Torres, ending their relationship. She returns, hoping to rekindle her relationship with Torres, but in initially rejected. Eventually, Torres reveals that she is pregnant with Mark Sloan's baby. Robbins accepts the situation, and she and Torres restart their relationship. Torres gifts Robbins with a weekend getaway, and Robbins proposes to Torres. After proposing, the two get in a car crash leaving Torres in a critical condition. A series of surgeries follows, including the delivery of her premature baby, along with emotional breakdowns of both Sloan and Robbins. Upon the awakening of Torres, she accepts her marriage proposal, and the two are married by Miranda Bailey. As the fifth year residents are coming close to the end of their residency, Robbins urges Alex Karev to work under her, and is subsequently involved in a plane crash, endangering her and her co-workers' lives.
Casting and CreationEdit
It was first reported in December 2008 that Capshaw would be joining the cast of Grey's Anatomy as paediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins, for a multi-episode arc. Initially scheduled to appear in three episodes of the show's fifth season, series creator Shonda Rhimes later extended Capshaw's contract to appear in all of the season's remaining episodes, becoming a series regular in the sixth season. Speaking of the new addition, Rhimes said:
"I love Jessica Capshaw, and when I say love I mean love. She couldn't be a more wonderful person, and I feel like the chemistry Arizona and Callie have feels like the Meredith and Derek chemistry to me. I find them delightful to watch."
This promotion saw Robbins become the only lesbian series regular on primetime TV. Robbins is described as "quirky and perky" by TV Guide's Matt Mitovich, and "a clear and rational surgeon who is not rules by her emotions" by Kris De Leon of BuddyTV. William Harper, writer of the episode "Beat Your Heart Out" in which Robbins and Torres kiss for the first time, has deemed Robbins: "genuinely, positively interested in people, in the most selfless way." Commenting on Robbins' confidence, Capshaw commented: "she never thinks she's wrong and you don't hate her for it. There's no ego though, she just always thinks she's right and she is." She is portrayed as having "wacky tendencies", including wearing roller shoes to work.
Shortly after her arrival in the show, Robbins became a love-interest for Torres. The relationship between the two is referred to by fans by the portmanteau "Calzona". Torres' previous girlfriend Erica Hahn was written out of Grey's Anatomy in 2008, due to a lack of chemistry between the characters. Rhimes praised the chemistry between Robbins and Torres in contrast, comparing it to that between the show's primary couple Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd, and stating: "They have that little thing that makes you want to watch them." Rhimes named the addition of Capshaw to the cast as one of the elements of the season she was most proud of, commenting that she wished she could have found Callie a love interest that "sparkled" sooner, but was pleased with eventually having found one in Robbins.
When Robbins turned Torres down in the episode "An Honest Mistake" due to her inexperience with women, series writer Peter Nowalk offered the insight:
"I totally understand why Arizona wouldn't want to date a newborn. It's like getting a Freshman as your Physics lab partner even though you're a Senior who not only knows the Laws of Motion but has mastered them in ways that would rock that Freshman's world. Which is not to say the Freshman won't grow to be really good at Physics, or that Callie won't catch up to Arizona on the lesbian front, it's simply that Arizona might not have the patience to wait that long."
Although the characters go on to begin a relationship, the show's one-hundredth episode "What a Difference a Day Makes" sees them experience difficulties as a result of Torres' father rejecting her for her sexuality. Rhimes commented on their ultimate reconciliation: "I love Callie with Arizona. I like that they make me feel hopeful about love." Rhimes has said of their relationship in the sixth season: "I would like to see Callie happily in a long-term relationship. We have so much to explore with them, because we barely know anything about Arizona." Capshaw has characterised the relationship as "incredibly understanding and compassionate and sensitive". She described the sixth season as being about: "cementing a very mature and grounded relationship and taking it forward. This is a drama, of course; there will be conflict, but for the time being, they're enjoying being in a relationship that seems stable."
Asked whether Robbins and Torres might marry in the future, Capshaw replied: "There's probably a lot more stuff that has to happen before that happens. I don't think they're going to get married just to get married. As Arizona goes, I think she has incredible discipline and she does, as you said, have a very strict moral compass and marriage would not be something she would jump into without giving it a great amount of thought." Discussing Robbins' relationship with Torres' former lover Sloan, Capshaw divulged: "Whatever there's been a chance to play that I am intimidated by him or being standoffish, I've always chosen to make it very playful. It's much more Arizona's style to find it very amusing."
Robbins ranked seventh in a top ten list of gay characters on TV compiled by Jane Boursaw of TV Squad. Boursaw wrote: "She's a mix of ironies, a paediatrician who glides around the hospital on wheelies, impulsively kisses Callie, then tells her she doesn't have time to teach a newbie how to be gay. Still, she's more interesting than the other gays on this show, which are dwindling in numbers since Erica left for parts unknown." Commenting on Hahn's abrupt departure from the show, Dorothy Snarker, writing for LGBT website AfterEllen.com observed of Robbins and Torres' relationship: "I can't help but be wary of how the Grey's writers will handle this relationship. Jessica has proven lovely and likable in her brief screen time so far. But it's not how the romance starts, but what happens next that really matters." AfterEllen.com also included Robbins in their poll of the Top 50 Lesbian and Bisexual Characters, ranking her at No. 3 and in their Top 50 Favourite Female TV Characters, placing her at No. 2.
Matt Mitovich of TV Guide noted that Robbins "quickly established herself as a fan favourite", describing her as: "a breath of fresh air in the often angsty halls of Seattle Grace." Chris Monfette for IGN has opinionated that the fifth season of Grey's Anatomy was an improvement on the previous two seasons, attributing this in part to the introduction of "fresh, new characters" Robbins and Owen Hunt. Monfette wrote that Arizona's ultimate contribution to the season was "introducing the element of childcare to Seattle Grace", which in turn gave Miranda Bailey "a great arc". Jennifer Godwin for E! Online approved of Arizona's season six promotion to a series regular, particularly as it meant the continuation of her relationship with Callie.
The Los Angeles Times's Carina MacKenzie wrote of the sixth season episode "Invasion": "By far the best moment in this episode was Robbins' scene with Torres' father, Carlos. Jessica Capshaw has an incredible ability to take even the most melodramatic of "Grey's" speeches and deliver them with a subtlety and an honesty that makes them come off as sincere instead of overwrought. "I was named for a battleship," she said, and in the powerful monologue that followed, she calmly and carefully explained that Torres was still the woman Carlos raised.