Is Ellen Pompeo leaving Grey’s Anatomy? Actress hints at exit after 19 seasons

Ellen Pompeo attends the 2018 GLSEN Respect Awards.
Ellen Pompeo has starred in Grey’s Anatomy for 19 years, but she may have hinted that she’s ready to close that chapter of her life. Pic credit: © Bennight/AdMedia

Ellen Pompeo’s name has become nearly synonymous with Grey’s Anatomy, given her 17-year stint on the show. However, she may have announced her departure from the show after issuing a sentimental statement to fans on November 17, 2022.

Pompeo’s statement described her gratitude for the support she has received on her journey on Grey’s Anatomy throughout 19 seasons.

She also reached out to her fans to call them the “best fans in the world” and express how much love she felt from them for their support.

Her post, though, seemed to serve another purpose than just sharing thanks. She concluded her statement with, “This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit.”

That statement certainly did sound like a parting statement. The part where she mentions this is not fans’ first rollercoaster seems to be a reference to how other major cast members have departed over the years, and the show has gone on without them.

Additionally, many of these departed cast members have returned to guest star on the show or to hold recurring roles. Hence, she seemed to be anticipating her return as a potential guest star with her promise to “visit.”

Is Ellen Pompeo really leaving Grey’s Anatomy?

Pompeo’s public statement quickly caught the attention of fans and colleagues. It raised the question of whether this was a “good-bye” post or merely a celebration of Season 19.

Given her wording, it does appear she will be departing Grey’s Anatomy in some capacity. However, without an official confirmation, it is difficult to understand what her post truly means.

After all, while Pompeo stars in the series, she also started serving as a producer on the show in 2017. Hence, it is unclear if she is leaving Grey’s Anatomy altogether or if she’s only leaving the role of Meredith Grey and will still be working behind the scenes.

Her announcement is also a bit confusing given that, back in September, she had indicated that she’d never leave the show as long as it was on the air. She also was rallying for the show to continue with Season 20.

She made the statement after she admitted to having a reduced role in Season 19. However, her reassurance seemed to indicate it was a temporary thing and not indicative of her departure.

Of course, after being committed to the show for two decades, Pompeo certainly has a right to change her mind, depart the show entirely, switch to solely producing, or whatever it is she hinted at doing in her post.

Can Grey’s Anatomy continue without Pompeo?

If Pompeo is leaving Grey’s Anatomy, it will undoubtedly impact the show. The series is still waiting to air its Season 19 finale and has not yet been renewed for Season 20.

However, it is now likely that the finale will explain Pompeo’s exit or a significantly reduced role. This raises the question, though, of what a Season 20 without Pompeo would look like.

Fortunately, Grey’s Anatomy’s showrunner, Krista Vernoff, seemed optimistic about the possibility of the show going on without its lead star. It is something the show has also prepared for by welcoming many new cast members for its 19th season.

Vernoff was fully supportive of Pompeo’s reduced role in Season 19 and believed focusing on new and younger cast members could reinvent the show. It would take the series back to what it was in its early years.

She also conceded that while Pompeo is the “extraordinary” center of the show, the show has “legs.” This means it can carry itself with its direction and new characters even without its lead star.

The show has survived losing major cast members before. While it’s hard to think of the titular character leaving, Pompeo’s potential exit doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the show.

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