Exclusive: Ellen Pompeo Opens Up About Her Uncertain Grey's Future and Likely Successor

Ellen Pompeo tells TVLine she has made no formal decision yet about extending her Grey’s Anatomy run beyond next season — nor has she been asked to. But should her swan song in fact air a year from now, at least one succession plan has the actress’ stamp of approval.

Series creator Shonda Rhimes volunteered to us on Friday that she is approaching Season 8 as quite possibly the “last hurrah” for her remaining original cast members, Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey included. “I really don’t know [who might re-sign] and I don’t presume to know,” Rhimes said. “Everybody has an individual choice to make and I get that.”

But Pompeo, when apprised of Rhimes’ stance, says she has yet to be presented with that choice. “No one has asked us to come back after Season 8, so I couldn’t presume that I’m coming back … if I haven’t been invited,” the actress told TVLine Friday night at the Young Hollywood Awards (airing May 26 on ION Television).

Young Hollywood Awards: Grey’s, Pretty Little Liars, Friday Night Lights Win Big

Pompeo previously said she “would probably not renew” her contract with the ABC series, explaining, “I think I’ve told all the stories I can tell as Meredith Grey.” But she clarified that year-ago soundbite for us, saying, “It’s not as if I’ve been asked and I’ve said ‘I don’t know’ or ‘No.'” Rather, the topic of renewing “hasn’t even been mentioned to me.”

A show rep had no comment on this story.

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Should Pompeo ultimately pass on re-upping, Rhimes’ show would lose its original title character, leaving Mer’s half-sister Lexie to emerge as the new Grey in Grey’s Anatomy.

“I would totally take that on -– if that were to be the case,” Chyler Leigh said during a September Fancast.com Q&A. “I don’t know where Ellen is [with her thinking], but that would seem like the logical next step.”

Would such a succession plan get Pompeo’s blessing? “If that’s what Chyler wants, and that’s what everyone wants, of course!” she told us.

Pompeo did note, however, that there is “another sister” out there — Lexie’s sibling Molly, whom viewers fleetingly met in a handful of 2006-07 episodes (played by Mandy Siegfried). Offers Anatomy‘s current Grey, “I’m happy with whatever happens!” (With reporting by Louis Virtel)

What do you think, Grey’s faithful? Can/should the show move forward after next season with a different Grey at the fore?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. mindy says:

    Can we concentrate on the fact that I LOVE Meredith and Lexie’s relationship as sisters and the show doesn’t even bother to give moments on their maturing relationship? I also Love Lexie and Meredith together (albeit I do love Lexie a little more) and its sucks that the show doesn’t seem to concentrate on anything any longer except this couple and that couple.

    It’s just… *sigh* whoever said that this show has WAY TOO MANY people on the cast is absolutely correct. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been a fan for a long time now and I do like Callie/Arizona but I’m not a big fan of them. They have gotten their chance. I know that this show is an ensemble but their storyline in Season 7 was just too into your face and I got sick of them being literally smothered on my face for more than 5 episodes straight.

    The last time I can remember the show still carried storylines right was season 5. The only couples I remember were Meredith/Derek of course, Mark and Lexie, and Cristina developing with Owen.. Callie developing with Arizona that was it. And they balanced those romances well.

    Now, though, there’s all Jackson and April AND Teddy thrown into the mix and the former is thrown into a horrible triangle. And Teddy? Who had an entire storyline that could have been used on other characters and is a character I honestly never gave a care for? I always presumed she’d leave after her Owen/Cristina debacle or her Mark/Lexie debacle.

    The show has way too many characters and with the recent explosive focus on Callie/Arizona about 95% of this season, I don’t even find that the characters have changed. Whatsoever. I see no growth as the writers have said. None at all.

  2. Melintex says:

    I will stop watching if Ellen is no longer on as Meredith.

  3. Amy says:

    I have to say both Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo shined in the finale, as well as Justin Chambers. They rocked it for the season finale which was beyond depressing so to have such outstanding work done by all three of them was a plus. Whatever happens as each season one actors leaves, it makes me sad. They are what made me watch Grey’s weekly to begin with. They have the history, the foundation. As this show gets old and cast members move on to new things, as they should and we would expect them to, it breaks my heart a little. I have dearly loves this show for many reasons and these cast members are teh reason why.

  4. maya says:

    Seriously, no other question was asked of Ellen Pompeo but this one question we’ve heard her answer a thousand times since S4? ugh. A new question that would have been relevant to Meredith’s storyline in S8 would have been nice :/

  5. Jan says:

    “Grey’s Anatomy” has become as shell of itself. I still watch but am totally bored with it. After Kate, Isaiah, Katherine, and T.R. Knight left, it has been downhill ever since their departures.

    If Ellen and Parick leave, it’s over. Just end the show and don’t think about having these replacements take over the show. It won’t work.

  6. tets says:

    Ellen Pompeo as Meredith is the Grey’s Anatomy. Without her and her storyline with Patrick Dempsey(Derek) there would be no Grey’s even if that character bears the Grey name.

  7. jen saunders says:

    If Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey to not renew their contracts then I would not watch
    Greys Anatomy anymore. They are the show and without them why would the show go on.
    I do not see either of them as movie stars so they really should stay on Greys as long as they

  8. Smriti says:

    Whatever happens I just HOPE Ellen and Patrick leave together I hope they know there is no Mer without Der and no Der without Mer After seven years of crazily loving MerDer I can’t handle this sort of ending. I NEED a happy ending for MerDer Ellen and Patrick are a team I hope ABC and they both too know that
    As for what happens to the show after them lmao who cares? For me the show began with MerDer, its very first scene was them waking up together and for me the show will end with MerDer Bo matter how big an ensemble cast Shonda might create for herself even she knows it no one can be MerDer no one has it in them to carry the show like MerDer have done for seven long years.

  9. Sheila says:

    I hope that she leave the show, is an excellent actress, who this past season was not valued. lexie’s starring series or not thanks.

  10. Tara says:

    the show can’t go on without her. I think they should end it with a bang and go out gracefully with Ellen or convince her to extend.

  11. Kloe df says:

    NO Ellen Pompeo means the show is over for me.
    it wouldnt make sense any more.

  12. AD says:

    Ellen has been not allowed the proper and strong story lines for someone with her amazing abilities to act and show her talent.
    The writers have messed Grey’s up big time recently I see why Ellen and Dempsey and Oh just want to leave. Ellen deserves a lot more for her 7 years as the amazing Meredith Grey. The fans know it. DOES ABC KNOW IT????? Plus no Ellen is for sure no Grey’s. END THE SHOW WITH HER. Or convince her to stay with better story lines and more center roles.

  13. will says:

    I love you ellennnnnn ….. without you and patrick, grey’s its nothing! suck….

  14. K says:

    There Will Be No Grey’s If MerDer Wouldn’t Be The Main Charcters or at least Be In It I Would Hate it if they stop airing new grey’s after season 8 But I Think if MerDer won’t Be There After that they Should Stop The Show

  15. Mrs. Dana Hammond says:

    I hope to god it is Lexie though they may all want to leave. Let’s face it, Shonda is NOT original. It is now callie’s anatomy which sucks worse than raw eggs. Whatever I am done with Greys and have been for a long time. Shonda never focuses on actual family so maybe the main character will be Teddy. Merder neeed to lreave to get a happy ending. Leaving is the only insurance. I think Sloan and Lexie should go off together too then Shonda can play with her sparkly new objects she loves.

    Grey’s will not last more than #10 is my guess because Shonda Rhimes doesn’t write for the nain cast. This season it was struggling so much. I heard the finale did worse than one of the episodes. Because everyone knows the writing is predictable. I hope abc kills it before it only has 5 mill viewers.

  16. Andy says:

    I leave when Ellen Pompeo / Meredith Grey leaves…
    Shes the heart and soul of it all the voice and strength behind it all.No one can carry this show into success and huge fanbasses the way Ellen Pompeo and PD have for the past 7 seasons. Ellen leaves rest assured the show will have no fans left.

  17. Mary P. says:

    There is only one Grey on Grey’s Anatomy. Lexie not have story to take the show forward. Lexie is a character so poor a to be the new Grey! If Ellen Pompeo out of the Grey’s I do not watch this show! Is ridicule the idea of having Lexie or any such successor. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Chandra Wilson … There is no show without them!!!

  18. Miami fan says:

    Rhimes’ condescending tone and very high self proclaimed opinion of herself coming across as complete lack of humility or appreciation for her fans; unlike Pompeo & Demsey will be her ultimate downfall. Many of us loyal GA viewers are absolutely fed up with the contrived, manipulative and predictable story lines. Her latest production Off the Map and its cancellation should be a big wake up call for ABC AND the less than 10 million viewers for a season finale. GA with its original cast & Dempsey & Pompeo was the goose with golden egg & Rhimes has killed it. IMO she was set on Lexie/Derek hook up when fan outrage ended it before it began & she’s been hell bent on not giving MD fans what they wanted to see (no engagement, no wedding ring, only post it note then infertility & now broken MD again to make one of her personal views come across while making a mockery of the institution that is marriage. GA without Depsey & Pompeo will not last a season.

  19. Mary says:

    With so many of the season one actors in play, I really think the survival of the show depends on how many of them stay. With ER, the transition of the cast was gradual – adding a new character and losing an old character throughout the run. For me, Meredith and Derek are a package – it would be odd to see one without the other. If we lost both of them and someone like Bailey and/or Yang then the show would be over for me.

    I think the show’s greatest downfall has been that rather than develop in depth storylines for the characters they have, everytime Shonda sees an actor who she likes is available she writes them in, and so there are very few well developed plot lines. Or she starts to tell a story and then comes up with what she thinks is another great story so she short shrifts the first story line to accommodate her latest thought. Compare that with Castle where the theme about Beckett chasing after her Mother’s murderer has been weaver into the story line over a long period of time – sometimes taking center stage, and sometimes in the background.

  20. PaRo49 says:

    This is my opinion so please don’t beat up for it. I think Season 8 should be the last hurrah. Grey’s is one of the best shows around but everything must end. It’s time to let go. The characters started out as babies and have grown up. Let the characters leave with grace.
    Each of the cast have added something amazing. Shonda and the other writers have written great episodes that make me laugh cry and think some of the writing has even changed my way of thinking and looking at situtions. I think it’s time to let go.

  21. Géraldine says:

    Everybody is agree to say that Grey’s Anatoy is above all an ensemble of characters and SLs. If Pompeo’s departure is confirmed – like Dempsey’s one – and as seeing as it seems that as talented Chyler Leigh can be, her character of Lexie Grey is still a supported role (and sorry I can’t imagine Eric Dane, who is one of the worst actors that I know, especially in dramatic scenes) -. So, why not to change the name is GREY’s Anatomy in GRAY’s ANATOMY and like that the ensemble could be kept?!
    (If Sandra Oh decided to leave too, the duo Cristina/Owen is over too!)

    • enijra says:

      the show can survive without the other duo but the idea of taking the mer/der and CRISTINA/OWEN off the hook?? its over,goodbye greys anatomy.(we’re all done)

  22. Njoud says:

    I think grey’s anatomy will lose so many fans when meredith and Derek walkout and I am one of them I didn’t like the Idea and there is no GREY’S WITHOUT them

  23. Mia says:

    Lexie CANNOT succeed Mer Just coz she is a “Grey” doesn’t mean she has it in her to carry the show I LOVE Lexi as a supporting char but would I want to tune into a show which was about HER and HER life and from HER pov? Nope not at all because its been quite some time since Lexie was part of the show but nothing much happened on her front. There is just no character development and I feel she is way too one dimensional a character to be the lead.
    Mer on the other hand is multy dimensional, her character has layers. And I feel apart form Mer only Alex and Cristina have that kind of layering in their characters, that unpredictability, that mix of black and white. The only only person I can see carrying the show apart from Mer and Der are Cris OR Alex and no one else. and even that won’t be enough. Some people think that the only thing EP does apart form the rest of the cast is the Voice Overs but its not ABOUT the voice overs, she carries the show, its always been about HER and HER life HER love story HER friends and their struggle. Why do you think Shonda made April and Jackson shack up at Casa Grey’s? Just so somehow they can be linked to Mer. Why do you think Callie was made to live with Cris? Just so she could be linked to Cris who is Mer’s person. The characters who don’t seem linked with Mer kind of become pointless and meaningless, like it happened with CAM this season. they were in their own universe and that totally made the show crash.
    Mer is the House of Grey’s Anatomy. she is the one telling the story this is HER story, even what happens to her friends become part of HER story. No way in hell after eight years of watching the show in this patter would people accept anyone else as the “lead”
    And I don’t even think Shonda is going there, if she were she would have already begun giving some real depth to Lexie’s character but she hasn’t.
    If they do decide to go on without MerDer, then I feel they would revamp the show and package it differently. I don’t feel they would even have a lead character then. it would be all about the ensemble thats left behind not about any ONE central character or couple.
    Though IMP the show NEEDS to end WITH MerDer and for me it certainly will!

  24. Secret_Waters says:

    A show called Grey’s Anatomy without the leading lady?! I don’t think so! Why would anyone stick around to watch it once Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey leave, they are what made this show a success and the failing ratings prove that as the show no longer focuses around Meredith and Derek but the second rate characters! It’s a real shame how wasted Ellen’s talents are in this show now! Why would us Meredith Grey fans WANT to stick around past season 8 without her!

  25. blahdeeblah says:

    I’m a diehard fan of Grey’s and have been for the past 7 years and if Ellen isn’t renewing her contract, I’d rather they finish the series with Season 8. It just isn’t the same Grey’s without Meredith. As much as I’d like Shonda to extend Grey’s to Season 10 or whatnot, but like Ellen said, they’ve pretty much told all the stories they can with Mer. And Lexie just can’t fill her shoes, she’s just not the same as the “dark and twisty, scary and damaged turned whole and healed” Meredith I grew up with.

  26. I like Lexie, but without Meredith there is no show. Come on shonda, hurry up and ask Ellen to renew her contract!!!!

  27. Bridget says:

    I got the impression the new contracts negativing didn’t even happen for them to decide about after S8 and who’s leaving and staying. I always though there’s a chance Ellen, Patrick and Sandra may stay why not if they throw more money at them and their work hours isn’t so bad. Like especially when you look on Patrick’s case he barely had anything this season and still he got payed the same LOL.
    I agree with those who said Lexie can’t carry the show she’s too bland and there isn’t much about her to explore honestly other than she isn’t ready for Mark doesn’t make an interesting lead and I get the ensemble excuse but if you notice when this season focus was mainly on CAM and Callie I read more hate comments than love ones and the ratings weren’t great. I wish if Ellen, Patrick and Sandra leave they give their stories justice SL wise and a worthy closure.

  28. Kerry says:

    For me the show is over when Derek and Meredith leave. They where in the very first scene of the show and they have to be in the last scene, but after that the show is over.

  29. Tammy says:

    It wont work
    the moment Ellen Pompeo walks away the show will sink and sink fast.
    its a shame to drag it further. I say end it with the Originals and keep it a legacy and the great show it once was.

    No ELLEN means no Greys for me. and I will no longer watch for sure.

    • Brian says:

      It wouldn’t make sense to have a show w/o Pompeo. The show title is a pun on her name, so how indeed does one have Grey’s Anatomy without Dr Grey?

  30. ed says:

    no ellen no greys
    its easy

  31. Andrew moz. says:


    “For me the show is over when Derek and Meredith leave. They where in the very first scene of the show and they have to be in the last scene, but after that the show is over.”

  32. fan says:

    TRUE FACT. Without Meredith there is no Grey’s Anatomy.
    Ellen Pompeo should get an Emmy for her amazing part the past 7 years.

  33. marissa says:

    Ellen is greys . The show is about her. I feel know one can place her. The show should end when she leaves

  34. O says:

    I can’t imagine Grey’s Anatomy without Meredith or Derek! The whole thing started with them so if they’re out what is the point?!
    I don’t think I would watch if they left!

  35. Casey says:

    People that view it as “no Ellen, no show” would leave but there are millions of fans that like everyone else too and watch for more than 1 character. I’m one and I would watch. I like Meredith and all but there’s everyone else too. It will probably come down to money anyway and if they offer her money she’ll stay. Unlike Patrick she hasn’t done any movies or anything on the breaks from the show so I could see her staying.

  36. Alberto says:

    I love Meredith, and without her… It would just not be the same show! Please, Ellen, sign!!!

  37. Marie says:

    Why is anyone worrying about this now? There’s a whole season before anyone’s contract is over isn’t there? ABC has plenty of time to negotiate with those they want to stay.

  38. Guy says:

    Although i love Lexie, Grey’s just wouldn’t be the same without Meredith. Love her or hate her she is Grey’s. Mind you being a fan i would still watch to see how it progresses. Afterall Steve Carrell left the Office and its still good. I have always said though that 10 seasons is what Grey’s should have so i hope that Ellen does decide to re-sign for 2 more seasons. Like she said she hasn’t formally been asked yet. We will see but Lexie is great so yeah.

  39. Anne says:

    Without the main characters especially Ellen and Patrick – I’m gone. If all the main characters go – this show will not be the same. I agree the show has not been as good for years but that is Shonda’s responsiblility. She has added too many characters so that the main characters didn’t have much screen time or storylines. Sometimes the guest stars had more on screen time than highly paid actors on the show that the fans want to see. Shonda will have a very hard time convincing me to ever watch one of her shows again.

  40. Barbara says:

    I know Meredith is the Grey’s in Grey’s and all but I can’t say I give that any thought when watching the show. She just kind of wanders around and doesn’t have any more story than anyone else. In fact most of her storylines feel so repetitive. I don’t find MerDer all that interesting any more. Way back in season 3 Meredith said “we can be dull and lifeless together” and that’s what they have become. The show put them together forever too early in its run and the couple is out of steam. I can’t blame the show if they send them off into the sunset because the characters have run their course. That doesn’t mean all the rest have though so I don’t see why they show would need to end.

  41. Leigh says:

    I love Lexie, but agree that the show wouldn’t be the same without Meredith. Lexie could take over, sure. Chyler could pull it off no problem, she’s amazing at what she does, but right now, I don’t want her to. I kinda want them both off of the sinking ship.

    This past season got so bad that I stopped watching (Yes it had it’s high points, I’m one of the people that LOVED the musical episode)and unless that is sorted out and they at least TRY to get back to the charm of the earlier seasons (which, lets face it, are the best), I probably won’t watch much of next season either. I hung on as long as I could (haven’t seen anything since 7×19), but at the moment I’d rather just watch the first 6 and leave it at that.

  42. Sue says:

    Not sure the question even needs to be asked this early. Everyone is signed on for season eight. Ellen and Patrick have been sidelined for the last two years especially Patrick this year. The show runner is deliberately trying to move the focus to one giant ensemble show. Ratings reflect that this is not working. ABC trotted out Mer/Der for the finale after concentrating on other characters for the better part of the season and showed half of their scenes before it aired in promo’s. Fans aren’t falling for that anymore. Burned too many times and so many took a pass. YouTube has become the place to watch GA for many. People are talking about past season eight when if GA doesn’t get its act together there might not even be one. ER went on about five years too long but they made it work because the writing was superior. GA has lame contrived story lines with little continuity and the writing is getting worse not better.

    Lexie was brought in deliberately as the back up Grey if/when Ellen left. Even though their characters live in the same house now their stories rarely intersect. Her back story, until her mother died, was a perfect life with perfect parents and she lived with a smiley poster over her bed. She doesn’t have anywhere near the layers and dark and twisty that Meredith has. She is a likeable character and a good actress. The other sister Molly is overseas and I expect in her free time she is going to medical school so potentially there could be two Grey’s girls. Unless you had Ellis Grey as your mother, I don’t see this working out.

    I personally hope that they take a hard look over the hiatus to figure out what is working and what is not working and get back to basics. Stop trying to be Modern Family or Glee and be Grey’s. It was original once. Make the core characters front and center. Have some of the others be reoccurring characters. We’d probably like them more. And please give everyone some quality writing.

    • Kendra says:

      Unless you work for the show, and I highly doubt that, you have no idea what the reasons are behind any creative decisions.

      • BrianAgain says:

        Aww, Kendra, be nice. Do you have anything constructive to say, or just going to bash others? I found Sue’s comment to be thoughtful; lengthy, but she obviously has thought about it. One does not need to work for a show to make educated guesses about creative decisions”.

  43. Jane says:

    My perception from her quotes is that she is backpedaling on her comments of last year that she would leave because she wants to stay. She had no issue commenting about leaving the show and moving last year but now she cannot presume to discuss it —- doesn’t make sense unless her stance has changed. Either way, its her choice. If she stays or goes I’ll still watch. Meredith is just kind of lurking around commenting on other characters’ lives most of the time anyway. The show was about young doctors making their way and I think they need a couple of young doctors to bring back that feeling more than they need Meredith.

    • Brian says:

      Jane, while you took a while to get there, ITA with what you said. The show lost its way, Pompeo is what, 41, 42? Don’t get me wrong, she is beautiful and talented, but you are right, it was supposed to be about young doctors. Can the whole shootin’ match.

    • Rose says:

      I agree with you Jane. I think they need some younger doctors too. They have so many attendings and so many older residents now. Time to move some along and bring in a couple of young ones.

  44. Brian says:

    I say they call it a day at Grey’s. Too kmuch drama on and off set, too many doc and cop shows for years… you know how some people stay at the party too long and others leave at the right time, early enough so you actually miss them? That would be cool.

  45. Mer Fan says:

    Speaking as a Meredith fan I think one more season of Meredith would finish off her story nicely. Characters on dramas need drama and Meredith has had everything under the sun multiple times already. She’s had multiple relationships dramas including a boyfriend with a wife, multiple breakups and husband being shot. She’s had never ending family drama with a sick mother, her mother’s lover being her boss, more mommy and daddy issues than can be counted, half siblings, a step mother, mommy died, daddy almost died, step mommy died and love/hate with her fake father. She’s had the illness story including almost dying (bomb), dying (drowning), NDE where she talked to the dead and donated an organ. She got married and struggled to have a child. She has had a few professional run ins but for the most part has been established as being one that will excel in her career. Next season can show her with her baby and balancing the job. After that what drama is left? How much can we watch her with a toddler, having an argument with Derek or doing something stupid at work? Love her or hate her, its time for her to go. Let the others carry on and see how the show does.

  46. Miriam says:

    I really wanna watch how Meredith deal whith this whole new mother role: it’s part of life.

  47. Jessica says:

    I don’t know if I would watch or not once some of the originals left. I would have to see how the show was without them. I do find watching 40 year olds with roommates and dithering about their relationship as MerDer have been shown to be tiring. Those are stories for 20 year olds, not married adults in mid-life. Meredith and Derek look ridiculous in these type of stories. I do agree that the show was geared more as young professionals coming into their own. If they want to keep that concept then they need new people and need to stop stretching the story out just to keep people around.

  48. Liz says:

    She wasn’t even offered to renew??! WTH??

  49. Sweet says:

    I could live without Derrick but if Mer leaves the show, I’m not watching anymore. She’s dark and twisty but knows herself. Lexie’s insecurities irk me to no end. No I will not watch her as the lead.

  50. GIL says:

    Agree that without Meredith there’s no show. She is the soul of grey’s anatomy if you cut her out, that’s it for me.

    On another note, i still cannot stand Kepner, i know they are trying for us to like her but sorry, she is really nice as a person but her caracter is really annoying and does nothing for me, on the contrary I’m starting to really hate her…poor thing.