Why Major Actors Leave Grey's Anatomy: Look Inside

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has become the longest running medical drama in American history, but after many seasons it also gained a reputation for getting rid of important characters. The reasons varied from bad behavior behind the scenes to actors wanting to move onto different projects. Here is the truth about the exit of some of our favorite doctors.


Washington played the role of cardio surgeon Dr. Preston Burke and Cristina’s love interest. However, in 2006, the actor had a discussion with Patrick Dempsey backstage and used a homophobic insult. Later on, T.R. Knight came out as gay, and Washington received more backlash from his comments. He denied the rumors at first, but ultimately apologized:

"I apologize to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance." Unfortunately, his words were not enough and ABC booted him from the drama in 2007. In the show, he left Cristina at the altar.


Walsh played Dr. Addison Montgomery, a neonatal surgeon, and she left the show for a different reason. ABC created a spin-off series called ‘Private Practice’ with Walsh as the central female. In an interview with Parade in 2016, the actress talked about leaving ‘Grey’s Anatomy’:

"I felt like my tenure sort of was done at the hospital in terms of — I'd delivered lots of babies, I sort of, you know, tried to save my marriage — it failed. I'd slept with numerous people at the hospital. I was like, 'What else can I do?' other than start like making lunch for everybody."


Knight played one of the main doctors from Meredith’s intern class as George O’Malley. The actor said that he decided to leave because his character had disappeared from the spotlight. Apparently, he and Shonda Rhimes did not communicate anymore. "My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George], and with respect, I'm going to leave it at that."

The actor also said that Rhimes did not want him to come out publicly after the Isaiah Washington scandal. "I think she was concerned about having my statement come out so close to the [initial] event." Shonda Rhimes firmly denies this and released a statement about Knight’s departure: "I think I speak for the entire Grey's Anatomy family when I say we wish T.R. Knight the best in his future endeavors."


Heigl’s exit from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was another huge scandal. The actress won an Emmy in 2007 for her role as Izzie Stevens; however, a year later, she took herself out of the running, claiming that she was not given “the material to warrant an Emmy nomination”. Naturally, her comments hurt the staff of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ deeply.

In 2010, ABC announced her departure from the show. The actress released a statement, saying, “I am done. We just finalized our agreement. Everyone had been working really hard to find an amicable and gracious way of letting go and moving on. It's sad but it's what I wanted." Years later, Shonda told Oprah: "On some level, it stung and on some level, I was not surprised."


Although no one was surprised, fans were sad to see Oh leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ after playing the role of Cristina Yang for ten years. In 2013, it was reported that Sandra would be leaving after season ten because she wanted to. "Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go." It was something she needed to do for herself.

Shonda Rhimes was heartbroken about Oh’s departure, stating, “One of the best days of my life as a writer happened the day Sandra Oh walked in my door to audition and forever changed the course of Grey's Anatomy with her brilliant, nuanced portrayal of Cristina Yang." Cristina’s exit changed ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ forever.


Derek Shepherd’s death was one of the most shocking moments of the show. Dempsey was killed off after working on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for ten years, and the fact that Meredith’s husband died was horrible for fans. Shonda Rhimes had to explain her decision, “The decision to have the character die the way that he did was not a difficult one in the sense of, what were the options?"

Dempsey talked about his exit as well, "Look, 10 years is a long time to be on any show. It's very hard to keep the storylines intriguing, especially on a network show with 25 episodes a year. So for me, it was time to go… it's nice to move on and have new challenges." It was a sad event that most fans won’t ever recover from.


Leigh played the role of Lexie Grey, Meredith’s sister, and she was killed off after an airplane crash at the end of season eight. It was the actress’ decision, although she only stated that: “I am very lucky to have worked with this amazing cast and crew for five seasons. My experience on Grey's Anatomy is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life."

In a tweet, Shonda Rhimes said, "I love Chyler and I love the character of Lexie Grey. She was an important member of my Grey's family. This was not an easy decision. But it was a decision that Chyler and I came to together. We had a lot of thoughtful discussion about it and ultimately we both decided this was the right time for her character's journey to end."


Raver played the role of Teddy Altman and left after season eight. But, her character was not killed off. The actress did not speak up about her departure from the show, and Shonda Rhimes said that her “series option was up” and the character was on vacation. The showrunner also said:

"I like to imagine that Teddy is still out there in the Grey's Anatomy universe, running an Army Medical Command and building a new life." Which turned out to be true as Teddy Altman returned for the season 14 finale and as a series regular for season 15. She is now pregnant with Owen’s baby.


Dane played the role of Mark Sloan, aka McSteamy, on the show, and he also made the decision to leave the show after being offered another opportunity. Dane said that he was thankful for his time on the series, and Rhimes commented that he was one of the best characters, but his time was up. Eric moved on to star on TNT’s ‘The Last Ship’.

He talked about how different his new role was compared to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: "It was an opportunity for me to go and I was interested in something different. I loved doing Grey's Anatomy. I would have done it until the final episode, but this was something I couldn't pass up."


In May 2016, Ramirez announced her departure after playing the role of Callie Torres for a long time. It was a surprise to many people, but in a statement, the actress said that she needed the time off and thanked Rhimes for making an amazing workplace. However, Ramirez also said that it was “for now”, hinting that she might be back at some point.

However, the decision came out of the blue even for showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who found out about it a couple of days before the public. "I had a different plan going and then Sara came and said, 'I really need to take a break.' I was sort of lucky that we had shot the end of the season with her going to New York."

Read more: Love Triangle On 'Grey's Anatomy'? Be Ready For A Twist


George played Ben Warren, but in September 2017, it was announced that the actor would be leaving for the spin-off, ‘Station 19’. He talked about getting the call from Shonda, “When Shonda Rhimes calls, you feel like you get called into the principal's office a little bit and you think, maybe I better take that call. We talked and she ran it down for me and had me at hello." He cameos in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ regular because of Miranda Bailey.

Read more: "Grey's Anatomy" Season 16 May Be The "End Of Story' For Ellen Pompeo And This Saddens Fans


Capshaw played Arizona Robbins while Draw portrayed the role of April Kepner. They left the show after season 14 in a decision made by the producers of the series. Some rumors stated that it was because of Ellen Pompeo’s salary increase, but showrunner Krista Vernoff said that it was a creative decision and that it was time to end their stories.

Capshaw took to her Instagram, posting, "I am sad to see her go but I am consoled by the idea that she will live on and on in all of our consciences and imaginations." Meanwhile, Drew did the same on her social media, "In the wake of being let go, I've been overwhelmed with gratitude, and I've felt profoundly loved. I am so humbled and so thankful."

Let us know which character you would like to see return. If you liked this article, share it with your friends who still love ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ after all these years. See you next time!

Source: Youtube/The List


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