Addressing for the first time the sudden departure of original cast member Justin Chambers, the EP confesses to our sister site Variety that figuring out how and when to explain Alex’s vanishing act “was a very careful threading of a needle, where we are giving a little bit of information and pain to Jo,” adding, “We’re, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is. And it takes us quite a few more episodes to get there and to give the audience clarity.”
Vernoff is, of course, somewhat limited in her ability to craft a truly satisfying ending for Alex, given the abruptness of Chambers’ exit; his final Grey’s episode aired back in November, and there are no plans for him to return to finish out his character’s storyline.
Last week’s episode offered the first clues about Alex’s fate when Jo disclosed to Amelia that her other half — who left town to care for his ailing mother — suddenly, inexplicably stopped returning her calls. “Jo went through so much pain and so much grief just last season that I wanted to be careful,” Vernoff says. “And so it’s a bit of a mystery [what’s going on with Alex], so that we don’t watch Jo in the same place that we watched her last season. We did it as carefully as we could. But it takes a while to get there.”
In confirming his Grey’s exit last month, Chambers said that he was looking to “to diversify my acting roles and career choices,” adding, “As I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”