Grey's Anatomy Boss Shonda Rhimes on Possible Exits of 'Originals' Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Etc: It's Different This Time Around

Grey's Anatomy Season 11Shonda Rhimes is experiencing a serious case of déjà vu.

Mirroring what she went through two years ago, the Grey’s Anatomy boss has been tasked with plotting out a season — the ABC hit’s 10th — that may or may not be the last for original castmembers Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers and Chandra Wilson.

But as Rhimes explains to TVLine, the behind-the-scenes cliffhanger is “much less stressful than it was last time,” mainly because “I’ve been through it before and, as with anything, if you had the experience of having done it already you know how to approach it. Whereas last time I was like, “I have no idea how to approach this.” This time I feel like I get how to approach it and how to tell story.”

RELATED | Grey’s Anatomy Exclusive: Ominous Season Premiere Title Revealed

Also, Rhimes doesn’t expect contract negotiations to go down to the wire like they did in 2012. “I spoke to [ABC Studios] and asked really clearly that I know sooner rather than later,” she shares. “Last time they kept me guessing up until almost the last minute, which was really stressful. This time I asked to know much sooner, so that we could plan for it.

“If one of the Originals is going to be leaving I want to give them the beautiful exit they deserve,” Rhimes adds. “I don’t want to be kept guessing about what’s going to happen.”

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107 Comments
  1. Leigh says:

    I love Grey’s but it’s time for it to end.

  2. GA says:

    So she just asks for more time before hand to get the character’s death correctly ? LOL

    • Lauren says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. If an actor leaves the show, you can count on the character being murdered.

      • CC says:

        That’s not entirely true. Certain people have survived the mighty Shonda axe. This includes Teddy, Burke, Hahn and Izzie.

        • Kat says:

          But “Burke” and “Hahn” didn’t leave because they WANTED out… I know that Brooke said in an Interview back then that she had no intentions of leaving, so it’s not like some of them wanted out… and as for “Izzie”, it was a completely different story, because Katherine just left. It was said that she would just take a break but she decided not to come back and left Shonda hanging, so that one is not Shonda’s fault and had Shonda known Katherine wouldn’t be back, she probably would have killed her. Sorry my opinion!

    • Midori says:

      It’s TV, that’s how it works.

      Any actor that left Star Trek had their character killed off in a lame way.

  3. Adam says:

    Even after ten years, I think the show can go on with one or two of the characters making an exit…but if all or even just most of the original characters leave, wouldn’t it be better to just wrap the series?

    • English says:

      ER continued for 7 years without Dr. Green. With the revolving stories with new charaters, Grey’s could go just as long, if not longer.

      • Jen says:

        Grey’s Anatomy is no ER.

        • Lily says:

          You’re correct. Grey’s is so much better.

          • Priyam says:

            I could marry you for that comment!

          • English says:

            Notice that no where in that comment did I say that one was better than the other. I know the difference. I am a MAJOR ER fan and own every season and often choose those DVDs over my Grey’s DVDs. I was making a point about cast changes and cast changes only.

          • Alex says:

            LMAO, Grey’s better than ER? I love both shows, but ER was in a class of its own, quality-wise. It was of the very best shows of all time, easily. Grey’s is very good but clearly at least a cut below the top tier.

          • Mary says:

            No, it´s not…at least for me:)
            In this kind of show, in my liking, nothing will ever beat ER; it was appointement tv for me:)

      • Adam says:

        While ER and Grey’s Anatomy both had a lot of cast changes, there’s a big difference between one or two main characters leaving each season and having upwards of five characters leave – all originals, all in the same year. If Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Karev and Bailey all left abruptly, would that make sense? One or two of them, sure, even Meredith. But if nearly all of them left? No. I can’t see any of the remaining characters (Callie, Arizona, Owen, Jackson, April, the interns) being the new anchor or central characters to the show.

    • Rocky says:

      If they all leave at the same time, yes, but I believe the ‘newer’ cast is capable of holding there on. Look at Callie and Arizona, by far my favourite pair to watch. I doubt it could continue without Meredith and Derek but, as much as I will miss Sandra Oh, her character really has explored her storylines already.

  4. LPMA says:

    I think history has proven that asking to know “much sooner” usually leads to cancellation.

  5. Eric7740 says:

    I feel that the 10th season of Grey’s should be the last, even though I love Greys Anatomy, if the originals leave, I feel the show would not be the same without Mer-Der. Plus, I also shows should leave on a high note!!! Don’t drag out a great show!!! Love Greys forever!

    • Susan says:

      I completely agree. Sadly with shows like this the networks don’t know enough to say no, and Shonda doesn’t seem to have enough sense to go gracefully. Personally I think it should of gone a year ago.

    • twilight123 says:

      I completely agree! I think that if season 10 was the last one, Grey’s could still go out relatively on top. It’s a strong performer in the ratings, the writing hasn’t completely jumped the shark (though we’ve come close a couple of time), and a majority of the original cast is still in tact. My biggest fear is them stretching Grey’s like NBC did ER. C’mon Shonda! Bow out gracefully and on your own terms.

  6. Sylwek says:

    To be honest, anyone who would leave this show right now, would be stupid, after what happened to Katherine Heigl. It is popular since 9 years and probably will be for at least next 5, while career outside of the show is really uncertain.

    • Jake says:

      I think Katherine Heigl kind of made her own issues and that is why she is unable to get much work now. These actors haven’t been supreme pains in the butts to everyone or bitten the hand that feeds them. 10 years is a long time to be on a show.

      • JLC says:

        Katherine Heigl is unable to get much work now? You clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Since she left Grey’s Anatomy in 2009, she has starred in 6 movies and has 4 more in either pre or post production right now (3 are set to be released in 2014).

        • Jake says:

          1 is an animated movie. 2 are stuck in development, so she has 1, maybe 2. But considering that pretty much every movie since she left GA has flopped (Killers, One for the Money, and The Big Wedding. Life as We Know it did middling business but was considered a disappointment, as was New Years Eve) and her attitude has turned off many fans (not all, just many) and people working in Hollywood, the parts she is getting are no longer all lead roles or of the same level of stature that she was once used to getting.

      • dude says:

        Katherine Heigl doesn’t get work because she made the “mistake” (depending on your priorities) of taking time off acting to raise her child and unfortunately, when she decided she was ready to come back, her moment had passed and people didn’t really care anymore.

        • S. says:

          No, she shot her mouth off about her various employers be it Shonda (and her writing staff) or Judd Apatow. Nobody wants to work with someone who’ll put down the people who hired her and gave her the level of fame she had. Taking time off for her family gave Shonda an opportunity to be free of Heigl and she took it. Guess who wants back on Grey’s and isn’t welcome? Her momager is apparently a total pill and runs Heigl’s career. Maybe people would give her another shot if she cut her mom loose. Remember when she won the Emmy and made the comment that her mom told her she wouldn’t win and blurted out ‘she does love me!’ It was kinda sad at the time, but looking back explains so much. Probably a bit like what would’ve happened to Ariel Winter if she hadn’t gotten away from her mother. The control takes its toll eventually. Some people go all Stockholm Syndrome with it.

    • Alex says:

      Some of the actors probably want to move on to other projects–generally they become actors because they don’t want to play the same role for ages and ages, they want some variety. Or maybe they want to spend more time with their families or move across the country or whatever. Leaving is not automatically a “stupid” decision, as you claim.

  7. Kat says:

    Why does James Pickens not count as Original? wasn’t he there since the beginning either? But well, maybe he’s not even there for Season 10 -.-

    • A says:

      Could the omission of his name mean Richard is a goner?

    • Larc says:

      Maybe Shonda didn’t include Pickens because doing that would have tipped off that Richard survived after all. And a big element of last season’s cliffhanger would be revealed before the new season even starts.

      • Kat says:

        It was revealed MONTHS before the Season Premiere that Mark was going to die, so why all of a sudden the “big fuss”?

  8. Fida says:

    Reblogged this on Rants & Rambles & Rages and commented:
    Grey’s without the fab five?

  9. kate says:

    the show has always really been about Meredith – I mean yes, there were other stories, but this show is about Meredith. and with both Meredith and Lexie gone, who is Grey? honestly, if it comes to the point where Ellen Pompeo leaves, it’s time to put this show down. it’s past its prime anyway, just let it die.

  10. Tav says:

    I see you, ABC/Shonda… gotta lay that groundwork if the originals ask for *too much* money.

    Though, why do only Ellen and Patrick’s names appear in the article title (on the homepage) and why are theirs the only ones bolded in the text? Ausiello inadvertently hinting at something??

  11. Samantha says:

    I hope they all decide to reup their contracts. Unfortunately, I could really see Patrick Dempsey deciding to leave, since he’s so into his racing right now. In that instance, I hope that they would at least decide to appear sporadically rather than having Shonda write them off all together (which, knowing Shonda, means certain death).

  12. trainwreck says:

    As much as I cant imagine not looking forward to a Grey Episode every Thursday, I would find it really really hard to watch without Meredith Grey & Cristina Yang being there .. I still am hardly over Lexie (and she wasn’t even an original!) – With Izzie and George, show kinda lost the essence that the 5 interns created.. As much as Shonda tried, April & Jackson still don’t pop in my mind when i think of Grey’s – I am just not that concerned about their characters!

    I think if and only if Pompeo, Oh and Chambers leave, Grey’s Anatomy should end and a spin off can come on air with the characters who want to stay onboard, as in the new interns, Callie-Arizona etc – the original Grey’s cast can pop in and out for a guest arc (like Addison does) .. In short #NoGreyWithoutTheGrey!

  13. CH says:

    I love Grey’s, but it may be time for it to go, especially if the originals leave. To me it’s always been about Meredith at heart. Not only that, I just can’t get into the new interns. The more they feature on the show, which I assume would be the case if the originals leave, the less I want to watch.

    10 years is a great run for any show. Don’t run it into the ground.

  14. Brenda Dempsey says:

    No comparison between greys and Er, they are very different shows but er had more staying power. I think season ten should be the last season and the show should finish on a high. All of the main characters have remained from day one (other than Katherine h) so it’s time for it to go and they can all leave together without any dramatic exits or deaths. I think we have had enough of them!!!

  15. Monique says:

    Not happy…being a fan(weather it was a blah seaon–or not). I am sticking with it BUT this is too much….It will NOT be the same without them…

  16. lizzy says:

    Honestly I could see Patrick leaving , he has said time and again that his passion is racing and greys is just a job but he has also said that as long is he is wanted he would stay. As for Ellen pompeo I think it was like last year were if Patrick leaves she will leave and vise versa so their characters can end together as well as the fact she has said many times that she thinks the world has had enough of Meredith grey .. I hope they don’t leave though they are the reason I watch greys

  17. Anoninga says:

    If you read the latest interviews I really doubt that EP and PD will be going anywhere. I think Webber and Yang may go. Not sure about Karev and Bailey. Very doubtful though.

  18. Tia says:

    Meredith and Derek. Ellen and Patrick are the reason I watch. The reason I stuck with this show for so long. When they’re gone so I am.

  19. Claudine says:

    Time to end if Meredith is gone. ER was never as good after Dr. Green left.

  20. megan says:

    I don’t really see them going anywhere but what do I know? They really seem to enjoy being on the show and they appreciate the fans. Unlike a lot of people, I actually really enjoyed last season. This is a show people will watch for years. I honestly didn’t care for a couple of the interns (Stephanie and Leah) but the rest I really enjoyed. Anyway, I really hope they all stay on.

  21. Anthony says:

    What gave ER it’s staying power is that so many leads got their time in the spotlight while there were scenes of their privet lives filmed outside the hospital (“On The Beach” may be one of the best episodes of TV ever) it was spread around. And the main cast/supporting cast was very large some of the nurses were on through out the entire run.

    I feel that Grey’s on the other hand Was built on Meredith and her relationships with those around her. Losing her would lose the original focus. I still watch it every week but even now I miss them as the wide eyed interns that they were. Had they had put more focus on each new batch of inturns I think the show would be viable if she left.

    • Laura says:

      Definitely agree with this post. “ER” and “Grey’s” are often compared because they both are/were medical-themed show. Beyond that broad similarity, they are structured quite differently. “ER” definitely had leads (Anthony Edwards, George Clooney), but the show was more decentralized than “Grey’s.”

      I think “Grey’s” should end if they lose most of their leads (just as I believe “ER should have ended sooner), but it won’t. Network television is currently struggling from a ratings standpoint, and I think ABC would be hard pressed to find a new show that can bring in even the decreasing numbers that “Grey’s” achieves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it run two to three more seasons.

  22. monica4185 says:

    I think is time to end this show. All they can do now is repeat stories with the new interns.

  23. Ali says:

    I’m in the minority here, but I never gave a hoot about Meredith or Derrek, so, I could care less if they go or stay. I don’t like their story line, don’t care about their baby or adopted Lola and don’t really enjoy their scenes. I do, however, like Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh as well as Justin Chambers. Perhaps a spinoff would be in order? I kind of gave up on Greys when Sloan and Lexie were killed off.

  24. Jessica says:

    If Patrick Dempsey and/or Ellen Pompeo leave Grey’s Anatomy then I am done watching! ABC can be hard-headed and plan for the show several seasons into the future if they want…Shonda can have all the “plans” for the show that she wants…but if those plans do not include Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo playing Derek and Meredith then I am finished with this show after season 10! I despise those stupid interns and I do not care what happens with the rest of the cast either! No “MerDer” = NO FANS!!!

  25. Irene says:

    It is GREY’S anatomy. If nothing else, maybe, Ellen can just lend her voice to the opening and closings. She doesn’t really have to be there, does she?

    • JLC says:

      I agree. Desperate Housewives had a narrator that wasn’t a regular cast member. Same with Gossip Girl. It would work for me. Also, the show is still bringing in a lot of money for ABC (I know cause I am a media buyer), so they won’t be cancelling it anytime soon. If it ends, it would have to be because Shonda decided to end it. ABC certainly won’t pull the plug as long as it’s bringing in ratings and dollars.

  26. Dizzle says:

    Not a perfect comparison, but One Tree Hill ran for another 3 years after CMM and Hilarie Burton left, and personally I thought those last 3 years were some of their best. If Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey leave, yes they’ll be missed but I think the show can easily survive without them.

  27. tiffany says:

    Don’t believe the hype Shondra is creating. Nobody is leaving. ABC is desperate to keep them. So when ABC dangles the big steaks (money) in front of their faces, time off and more racing time, they will sign on the dotted line. Probably for two more seasons. Do y’all know it’s all about the money not the fans. SO STOP WORRYING! ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER.

    If one does leave Shondra states she’ll give them a beautiful exit. Well I think this would be unfair since she gave Lexie such a horrible exit I’m just saying. And Shondra knows no one will watch the show if the Originals, Sara R and Jessica leave. None of them left after 8 and none will leave after 10. SO SHONDRA PLEASE STOP THE HYPE!! PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR.

  28. rty123 says:

    If the original cast-members leave, please, oh please, Shonda let it end. I understand that Grey’s is still popular but without Meredith, Alex, Cristina, Bailey there’s just no reason to go on. It won’t be Grey’s. She might as well create a new medical series with a whole new slew of characters. Don’t ruin Grey’s, please.

  29. Fernanda says:

    “If one of the Originals is going to be leaving I want to give them the beautiful exit they deserve,” Rhimes adds. “I don’t want to be kept guessing about what’s going to happen.”… – Ok Shonda, The Chief is alive. Electrocuting is not a beautiful exit for a character. Thank
    You

    • Morgan says:

      Thank you. George and Izzie were given beautiful exits, weren’t they? Poor Shondazz. I think she suffers from ADHD with that short memory.

      • trainwreck says:

        Izzie, IMO, never had an “exit” – she still lingers around in my mind – waiting to show up and turn Alex’s life upside down!
        George’s exit was so far the best dealt with.. mean I know Teddy wasn’t main cast or fan fav, but she was just sent to Germany and never even mentioned by Yang through out season 9?

      • twilight123 says:

        I think that George’s death episode is one of the most beautiful exits that Grey’s has ever done. I still choke up thinking about him getting on the elevator in his military uniform and a buzz cut to meet Izzie in her prom dress. It was poetic.

  30. Danielle H. says:

    The show has gone on a long time and reinvented itself a few times. But at this point everyone has gone through so much that it is already incredibly unbelievable. I think it picked back up after a couple seasons of missteps a few seasons back, but I think that maybe it’s time to wrap it. Definitely before the Originals leave. I mean gosh what else are they going to do make Meredith almost die for a 10th time??

  31. Sam says:

    Hey Micheal,
    How come you dint get “the lesbian ghetto” comment…. I think it’s one of her best ones to date….lol! Lesbian ghetto…..ahahaha

  32. B.Sidney says:

    Grey’s Anatomy is just my favorite network drama ,I can pick grey’s over anything on TV tight now. 10 years is a lot but I feel like it is still going strong ,just look at the rating and to the demo ratings NUMBER #1 Drama.
    And Honestly I get it , the actors are tired ,it’s been 10 years ,they want to do something else (they’re all well known now n so they could afford it ).
    I love Meredith , I used to hate her circa S5,6 but now she is simply my favorite .
    Anyway I wish Grey’s could run for another 5 years and please bring back Izzie.

  33. Jillian says:

    I’m sorry, but what is Grey’s Anatomy without Meredith Grey?! I can deal with Justin or Chandra leaving but not Ellen or Sandra. And you can’t really write off Patrick without writing off Ellen (and vice versa) so this is going to be tricky. Hopefully they all re-sign for at least 1 more season to give closure to the show.

    • George says:

      My thoughts exactly! You already killed off one Dr. Grey. Why would you continue a show centered around said Dr. if you no longer have that Dr. on the show??

    • Iris says:

      I agree, sorry but my english is not very well, then, creo que es Sandra la que se va, firmo para protagonizar la serie “33 Liberty Lane” espero que no se valla…

      • Maria says:

        No creo que Sandra de valla… Ya tuvo la oportunidad de Irse cuando se fue a Mayo y no se fue. Para mi que sí alguno de los originales se va deberían cancelar Grey’s. Por más que odio decirlo, Grey’s ya lleva 10 años!!! Si se va alguno no sería lo mismo. Yo amo Grey’s Anatomy y es mi programa favorito, pero todo tiene que terminar en algún momento :(
        _______
        I don’t think Sandra will leave… She already had the opportunity to leave when Christina went to Mayo, and she didn’t left. I think that if any of the originals leave the show won’t be the same. I hate to say this but Grey’s been on over 10 years now!! I LOVE Grey’s Anatomy and it’s my favorite TV Show, but everything has to end sometime :(

      • nina says:

        Liberty Lane is no series.its a movie she already shot. Still i think it will be sandra oh who leaves. She hinted in a spring interview she is returning to stage probably next spring. And this gives you also the answer to Cristinas & Owens fate…..

  34. Kerri says:

    Not a fan of Rhimes, but sounds like she’s telling ABC to lock it in way earlier than last time. Give her a chance to do something respectable for the ones that may leave. Although scary is her idea of “beautiful exit”. I’m looking at you, Ellis, Susan, George, Lexie, Mark and Adele.

  35. Guest says:

    There’s really no reason for anyone to leave at this point. There are so many damn characters now as opposed to when the show first started that the originals aren’t on screen nearly as much. Less work, bigger paycheck. Hasn’t Dempsey been filming movies at the same time as he does Grey’s?

  36. Ashlee says:

    Sad as it is I’ve been losing my faith in continuing forward to watch it. I wanted it to wrap up last season but now let’s end it this year and let all these actors go do their own thing without all of them dying off. Plus I’m ready for the originals that are left to finally get a happy ending. They have been through enough don’t they deserve happiness? If it doesn’t end this season I will probably stop watching especially if they take off the main cast. I don’t care about these new interns

  37. Georgia says:

    Just get rid of Alex or maybe Bailey and keep the other 3.

  38. Prerna says:

    Grey’s will lose its charm without Ellen, Patrick, oh, Justin n Wilson. Shonda should either keep them nyhow or end the show wid happily ever after.

  39. Iris says:

    Sandra Oh firmo para otra serie,tal vez sea ella la que se va :( pero que pasara con Owen! es mi pareja favorita aunque la verdad Shonda ya se paso mucho con ellos, como podrian seguir juntos despues de un aborto, una infidelidad, y muchos abandonos?

  40. kimski says:

    Patrick Dempsey said recently he did Grey’s Anatomy in order to be able to continue to race so I think he will re-sign for another season or too since it helps finance his racing passion. I just hope Ellen Pompeo will stay on as long as Patrick Dempsey. I want them to exit together, like moving out of town or something, just together because they have been through too much for them not to leave together in a happy ending.

  41. Vuyieh says:

    Well I’m still in love with GA, love Mer-Der. I’m crushed Oh is leaving hard to imagine the show without her. Ending a show while its still popular is just so dignified than having it forced off due to ratings. End it on a high eg. Oprah, bowed out gracefully.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Shonda will kill everyone maybe bye a bomb or something

  43. Anabitch says:

    If u don’t want to watch it u don’t have.

  44. broccoli says:

    Meredith was the first character to be shown on Grey’s Anatomy, and she narrates each episode, and each episode is her thoughts on a theme that plays out during an episode, and with out her dark and twisty past and side the show wouldn’t have developed to what it is today.

    Luckily Patrick and Ellen don’t seem to be going anywhere. Patrick needs the job to support his racing and seems to realize not to quit at this point, and Ellen has said that actors think that the grass is greener on the other side and that she loves her job and life. And watching the older seasons it is obvious that it would always be Meredith and Derek. They deserve their happily ever after. Justin Chambers has kids approaching collage-age and has said that he is glad to have a job to support them.

    I have no idea abiut Chandra and James, but they seem mature and know what they’re doing, so I guess time will tell.

    Knowing how huge of a fanbase Calzona has and that Jessica had to apply three times to land a role on Grey’s and Sara was fetched from Broadway and asked to pick any Abc show, I think they have enough perspective to know not to leave. Same goes for Mercy Westers and the interns I think.

    Sandra Oh needed therapy to leave to show, and still did it, I respect that. I do think it is sad to see her go, especially as Meredith is Cristinas person and she is the other twisted sister, and she and Meredith have one of the strongest bonds and most effortless and flawless friendships on tv. It makes me especially sad to see her and Meredith fighting right now, knowing that it is Cristinas last season, and I hope that it is just a short phase that will make them even more stronger. I also hope that Cristina gets her happy ending, hwr dream come true, a Harper Avery and an amazing job somewhere. She is built for the OR.

    The show is amazing, and it has achieved so much and it takes a lot to get to where it is now. As long as the rest of the originals stay on and the writers keep the show good, I will keep on watching.
    I do though think that it’s time to start planning an ending. The show is at the end of its arc, it is quite obvious. I’d say season 11 or 12 would be a good point to end it for everyone’s sake, and to end it when it’s still running high. I hope that at the most desperate moments the actors still realize that is is a dreamjob and they should stick on and treat is a normal job, and give Grey’s a graceful ending. It has so much potential still, and everyone needs a beautiful ending for their individual and mutual journeys, and a heck of an ending narration from Meredith :).

  45. lara strauss says:

    I love Greys and all those who make the story absolutely fantastic. Please DO NOT STOP with the series. I have watched over and over many times. I would love to see Greys carry on. It’s amazing and I give 110 stars for Greys Anatomy. This series has the potential of moving forward greatly in many ways. PLEASE ONT STOP AND GIVE UP. PLEASE! :'( many tears, much greetings hugs and much love to all.

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