Grey’s Anatomy fans were shocked at the news that came out in August that Ellen Pompeo was taking a dramatically reduced role in the upcoming 19th season. Despite rumblings over the past year that the actress was trying to convince everybody the show should end, Pompeo had already renewed her contract for the upcoming season, and many couldn’t even picture the ABC hit outliving Meredith Grey. With the decision for Meredith to appear in only eight episodes of Season 19, fans are now wondering: Is this the actress’ way of transitioning out of the medical drama completely? Pompeo spoke to CinemaBlend at the D23 Expo to address her future on Grey’s Anatomy.
Ellen Pompeo is one of three series regulars to remain on Grey’s Anatomy after 18 seasons, along with Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr., and the actress has spoken multiple times about feeling like she'd been on the show “for too long.” CinemaBlend asked Pompeo what was going to happen after Season 19, and if the actress planned to return to the series. She said:
Not in a full-time capacity, no.
Apparently, Season 19 really is the beginning of the end for Meredith Grey, as Ellen Pompeo said she has no plans to return to the series for a full season. However, she said that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love the show or care about it anymore; as always, she’s trying to do right by her character. Pompeo continued:
I've done my best year. Everything I can do. I still love the show. I'll always be a part of it. It's a huge part of my life. I care about it very much. But in order for me to do my best work and be as passionate as I've always been about the character, I’ve got to tell less of Meredith's story. I've told a lot of Meredith's story.
We certainly have gotten a lot out of the character, who's experienced love, loss and so many near-death experiences over the past 18 seasons. The questions surrounding Grey’s Anatomy’s future — and Ellen Pompeo’s participation in it — seemed to even make its way into her character’s storyline this past season. Meredith Grey’s yearning to leave Seattle for new opportunities was met by pushback from all of her colleagues, prompting a rant in which the Grey Sloan surgeon pointed out that everyone she'd started with had moved on, while she’d stayed and worked and won awards for the hospital.
As Ellen Pompeo begins to phase her character out of the show, Grey’s Anatomy is welcoming in a handful of new characters. They’re stopping short of calling Season 19 a reboot, but there is definitely a harkening back to the pilot, when we were originally introduced to Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, George O’Malley, Izzie Stevens and Alex Karev.
Season 19 should be a game-changer for Grey’s Anatomy, and we’re only a few weeks away from the premiere, with the drama set to return to ABC at 9 p.m. Thursday, October 6. In the meantime, you can rewatch any of the past 18 seasons with a Netflix subscription, and keep up with all of the other upcoming premieres with our 2022 TV Schedule.