Exclusive: Grey's Anatomy Boss Cracks Finale Puzzle, But Contractual Question Marks Loom

Grey’s Anatomy boss Shonda Rhimes is done playing the waiting game.

The show’s creator has mapped out plans for the show’s upcoming eighth season finale despite not knowing which members of the original cast will and won’t be back next fall.

“I have figured out how the season is going to end, which was the most complex puzzle I’ve had to put together — ever,” Rhimes tells TVLine. “We have all these moveable pieces of who’s coming back and who’s not, and finally I just decided to focus on what was going to be best creatively for the show and figure out a way to make it work REGARDLESS of what is happening [off screen].”

That’s a change from Rhimes’ initial goal, which was to wait and see how negotiations with core castmembers (Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers, included) played out and then solve the finale conundrum — a plan she now admits made her rather anxious.

“I was very nervous at the beginning of the season because I never started a season not knowing how it was going to end,” she confesses. “But once I figured out how it’s going to end, I feel good.”

Rhimes insists she doesn’t “know anything about what’s happening” with regard to the contract talks. “I write the scripts,” she notes, “I don’t negotiate the contracts.”

That said, she’s still heavily invested in the outcome. “I hope to have resolution every morning when I wake up,” she says with a laugh. “But when it comes it comes. I have accepted that it’s not something I have any control over whatsoever, so I’m just letting whatever happens happen.”

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  1. Kervin says:

    The latest episode basically reminded me of how the show just cannot work without Meredith, Cristina, Alex and Derek. We need these people back! Hope the negotiations come through!

  2. Ingmar says:

    Thanks for the article! I really hope all of them will return! Especially Ellen, Patrick ( even part time is ok! ) , Sandra Oh and the actress who plays Bailey ( Chandra Wilson ). I don’t hope she’ll write a cliffhanger with a character that isn’t coming back next year. That will suck!

  3. ken says:

    i’ve come to a crossroads with the show. i’m ok if ellen and patrick leave. i just don’t feel like either has had an impactful story i’ve found interesting enough to follow. sandra leaving would be rough as cristina is by far/away my favorite cast member/character. i’d be upset about justin leaving, but karev’s character dilemma’s continue to circle like a vortex and it’s becoming a bore to watch. as for bailey, what’s even left for her? the show kinda needs some new life, and maybe dropping some of the dead weight would do that.

  4. Jen says:

    I sincerely hope that what she wants to happen happens, because another story without an ending (Alex and Issie, anyone?) would be horrible.

    • Ari says:

      Alex adn Izzie had an ending! She left him and then came crawling back and he told her he was too good to be treated like that! What about that sitution didn’t give you a sense of finality? I always feel like people who want Alex and Izzie to have a different ending really want Izzie to come back and leave in a way that makes her looks less like the douchecanoe she was. She treated him wrong, he realized he deserved better and said it. Divorce papers were signed, finality.

      • Jarrod says:

        Preach it!
        I miss Alex and Izzie, but I’m sick of the fact of hearing that they never got “closure”. Katherine Heigl left the show. She’s gone and she won’t come back, regardless of how much her career continues to sink.
        Ari is right. Alex gave her the boot after the 2nd trip back. Divorce papers came 7 episodes later. They’re done. Alex and Izzie are done.

      • Rita says:

        Yes, Alex and Izzie did get an ending. Not the one I wanted, but it was an ending. Unfortunately, Alex hasn’t had any decent story since Izzie’s departure. :(

        • daniel says:

          they didn’t have an ending; in the season 6 finale Alex started crying out for Izzie after he was shot, it doesn’t seem to me like he is really done for her. Besaides Shonda promised the fans some clousure t them in season seven, wich never happened because she changed her mind (she wanted to kill izzie off screen), so i can only hope they get a proper clousure or get back together later in this season! fingers crossed!

          • aussie says:

            they had closure, Alex said he was a better man and they divorced end story.
            The crying out for Izzie i believe that is called shock after a major trauma.

      • LaurenMC says:

        True, Izzie and Alex had closure, but I feel her overall character and storyline didn’t have closure. We don’t know where she went or what she was doing. And she left on bad terms with her friends, remember she just left Meredith crying in her room. Lame. It needed/needs more.

      • Mal says:

        Thank you! I honestly started to think I was the only person who felt this way! He had that brilliant speech about how he deserves better than her, then she left, then they both signed divorce papers. What more do people want? Who cares how she’s doing elsewhere or if she makes up with her former friends? I don’t see many people caring about Burke, and he left just as abruptly as Izzie! Yoysh. The ONLY time I think it’d be fun to have Izzie back is in the February “What If” episode they’re doing.

  5. Saint Alicia says:

    Pleased to hear this, and from Shonda’s last interview it ~sounds~ like Meredith and Derek are headed to a good place (which is a nice change).
    It always pissed me off when showrunners/writers make cliffhangers and/or leave characters’ futures in the balance BECAUSE the actors’ contracts are up for renegotiation. It’s like, WTF, are you intentionally daring the studio/execs to let them go because you’ve conveniently put them in a precarious position?? Not. Cool.
    Glad Shonda is doing what’s right creatively not financially.

  6. SonR says:

    i have a feeling this means car accidents and people going on doctors without boarders. from which they may or may not recover/come back

  7. Anita says:

    No Ellen Pompeo means no Show

    Ellen Patrick Sandra Justin need to sign for more for sure.
    we need them to have Grey’s. with all do respect but the others will never make a show go on.

  8. AnnClau says:

    I don’t think the show can live without Ellen, Sandra and Justin. But I just hope Meredith will finally have a happy ending.

  9. Jarrod says:

    What about James Picken. Jr? Why is The (ex) Chief always left out with these things? He’s an original cast member too.

    • Rita says:

      You seriously have no idea why he’s rarely mentioned. Obviously it’s because he’s not a major player. I’m sure very few viewers tune in mainly to see him, whereas many of the other characters (Meredith, Derek, Cristina, et al) have large fan followings. He’s almost always been a supporting character who is not particularly important in the grand scheme of the show.

      • Jarrod says:

        There are a lot of fan favorites other than Meredith, Cristina, Alex, Derek and Bailey. Besides, these characters have been in the backseat lately, so it’s kind of difficult to label them a “fan favorite” anymore, when they were becoming severely underused last season. I just think that considering James Picken. Jr has been in every single episode to date since the beginning of the show that he deserves a mention. Every article I read has never mentioned his name. I think it’s insulting and offensive to not only the actor, but the character he plays.

  10. Steve says:

    This is how Grey’s Anatomy will end this season:

    In the final episode of the season the entire hospital staff flies to Moldavia for a royal wedding…errr, I mean medical conference when guns shots ring out — leaving all of our characters in life or death jeopardy until next season’s opener.

  11. Carolyn says:

    The only reason I watch the show is for Kevin McKidd. Hope he stays awhile. I am working up the courage to watch Trainspotting, which features Kevin and a few other actors I admire. Also have North Square on order. And loved Journeyman.

    Enjoy Sandra Oh as well. They could spin off these two into their own series and I would love it. The rest can leave.

    • aussie says:

      I think you will find that
      Kevin McKidd
      Sara Ramirez
      Jessica Capshaw
      Chyler Leigh
      all have at least another season left on orginal contracts so they will be around next season it’s only the orginals renegotiating.
      Patrick Dempsey
      Ellen Pompeo
      Justin Chambers
      Sandra Oh
      James Pickens Jnr
      Chandra Wilson

  12. LaurenMC says:

    I love Grey’s and have been a loyal fan since the beginning. I’m sorry, but the show cannot go on if it loses Meredith/McDreamy/Dr. Yang/Karev. 8 years is a good run, people. If Ellen Pompeo doesnt renew her contract – let the show rest in peace.

  13. mark says:

    Sounds like Shonda is planning a Moldavian Masacre at Seattle Grace…..oh wait she already did that. I really wish ABC would just end Grey’s Anatomy, the show is a shell of its former self, let it go out with some dignity.

  14. Jane says:

    I say bring Burke back! If Ellen and Patrick leave, there’d be at least 1 more original cast member left and he would definitely cause some friction between Owen and Christina.

    • Jarrod says:

      Burke’s been gone for 5 years. Trust me, he’s gone. I agree that considering T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl – who were the only ones with issues towards him – are now gone, it would be good to bring him back. Not to mention, a competition for Teddy AND possible love interest. But he stated in an article he’d love to at least guest star in future. Shonda obviously ignored the hints that he wanted to come back.

  15. Sandra says:

    What happened to Dr. Torres? I must have missed something major. She was in an accident, but I didn’t see her after that. What did I miss?

  16. Caley says:

    can’t the show just end? it’s had an amazing run but it’s going down hill, the storylines are becoming contrived and on constant repeat.

  17. Sg.Grant says:

    Sounds like everyone with an ongoing contract negotiation is going to get shot at the end of the season.

  18. Jen says:

    I hope something happens to improve the show in some way because this season has been completely awful, from that wretchedly ill-conceived abortion story at the beginning of the season (that is ignored, though still yet to be resolved, as if they hope the audience would forget it ever happened), to suddenly out of nowhere making Lexie jealous of Mark’s relationship, to having to kill off Henry, the only relationship that made Teddy vaguely tolerable. (I get the actor left to make another show, but couldn’t he just be off camera and referred to and guest star once every few episodes?). I’ll admit to not knowing what they should have done with the characters, but I do know they should not have gone there with a lot of the stories this season and have squandered a lot of audience goodwill.

  19. Aussie says:

    I laugh at people who say end the show, it’s past it’s best etc etc yet here you are still reading and commenting on articles about the show.

  20. Mark says:

    No love for Rhimes but can appreciate that she is between a rock and a hard place. This is on ABC. They should have started contract talks a long time ago if they were committed to a season nine. Maybe they weren’t and were waiting to see the ratings first. It will be a shame if story lines don’t get wrapped up, in Grey’s fashion, because ABC is dragging their feet. Basically I don’t think they have anything at all to replace it with but were hoping they did. At this point it all comes down to how much is it going to cost to get the originals to stay.

    • Cassie says:

      Agree. It gets down to how much ABC can afford to pay the originals to stay. And the originals are probably looking for a raise. The season will most likely end with another trainwreck cliffhanger.

  21. Mandy says:

    I think they can make it work with almost any combination of characters, but I am not sure they should.
    The show has always been an ensemble, but lets face it, Alex, Christina and Meredith have always been the focus. Yes, George and Izzie are gone and they show continues on, but if this core group diminishes too much more, the show doesn’t make sense.

  22. Valentina says:

    I think this is very disrespectful of the fans. She’s going to end with a cliffhanger regardless people coming back or not? And then what? If they don’t come back we’ll never have closure? I have spent years caring for these characters, I would be pissed if I didn’t get a neat ending. I am prepared to not see some characters come back but I hope they can have a happy ending if that is going to be the case.

  23. NicolinA says:

    I ‘m dying to comment on the whole Alex- Izzie debate! Guys, all of you are right. YES, technically, they had a finale/ closure. YES it was so terrible that it didn’t give the viewer any closure!!! You are talking about the characters we loved for six seasons (me being one of those who hoped Alex and Izzie end up together since episode 1- I even hated Denny), and you wrap them up in a freaking 5’ chitchat???? :( Thumps down Shonda… I’m fine with Izzie leaving the show, so -long, but not that way. That being said, clearly departures are not handled so delicately on Grey’s :P Anyhow, I m all for the ORIGINAL cast and no way I d watch it whithout Meredith and Christina. Hang on a few years people, we all need our super drama relief ;)

  24. Eve says:

    YouTube interview with Patrick says he’ll stick around if he can race full time. Part time Patrick is better than no Patrick. Seal the deal ABC. You need Dempsey, Pompeo, and Oh to continue the show.

  25. jess says:

    I think the major players should re-up for one more year and that next year should be the end. Gives Shonda a whole year to map out the end for everyone.

  26. greysfan says:

    I must say this is interesting news and i really hope Ellen returns. Without Ellen the show is no longer in my eyes. Even if Patrick leaves the show is still viable because imo Ellen is still there. She is what makes this show and love her or hate her without her the show just won’t be the same.

  27. Winslow says:

    I have watched GA since day 1 and despite what is being written here, the show could survive without original cast members. ER which I watched for years lost all of its original cast and brought in great cast members for years that you looked forward each year to see wo was coming on the show. Shonda be bold – the fans will try to keep you in a rut.

  28. Dewsterling says:

    I’d like Richard to have a massive coronary and for Meredith and/or Derek to go off a bridge/out of the country indefinitely/ or take jobs elsewhere. Their departures would make room for the existing characters that have never been fully explored. I want more Kepner, Avery, Grey 2.0, et al. Let them be Fellows and Attendings teaching the next generations of SG/MW students. It would be the smarter decision – freeing up salary and script for new actors/characters and bringing in new audiences.

  29. Ayin says:

    GA will not survive without ellen, sandra, patrick, justin and chAndra.. The show will not be the same.. I’m pretty sure that many people will stop watching it once they leave the show.. So sad.. I hope they will find a way to mAke the original cast stay.

  30. amber esarey says:

    I really hope greys anatomy does not end. I look forward to Thursday night cause that means I get to see my FAVORITE TV show :) please keep it going. Thank you, amber.

  31. Danielle says:

    the show can only survive without SHONDA RHIMES….the seson finale show no care to the fans, no and also no emotion at all!!Seems to me she just lost it!!
    I have seen all the seasons more then once, and I just cannot belive I just watch a full hour of nothing!!
    It is ok to end the season and no to reveal all…but NO espectacions for next season.not like last one..

  32. Natasha says:

    Arizona has to survive!
    that is all.