When Shonda Rhimes first premiered her ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy back in 2005, no one expected to experience the insane, rollercoaster of emotions for 14 seasons. It’s almost like the groundbreaking show creator and producer enjoys of coming up with new, extremely tearful ways of torturing fans of the show. Over the years, we’ve seen her kill off regular cast members with a vim that nearly matches Game of Thrones author George RR Martin while callously taunting the surviving characters (there, there Meredith – hopefully you’ll live happily ever after far, far away from the crisp and rainy air of Seattle) with heartache. Despite all the torture, fans keep coming back to the show like victims suffering from Stockholm syndrome and will continue to do so for another 14 seasons - if only to see how well Ellen Pompeo has aged.
While some cast members have managed to age gracefully, others seem to not have been so lucky. Do they not believe in cosmetic alterations? Just when we thought it would be impossible to avoid the superficial need to conform to Hollywood's addiction to plastic procedures, these few actors prove us wrong. Perhaps they are as intelligent as their characters working in the medical field and know that there's no magic escape to the process of aging. Here are 16 photos of the surviving cast members from their very first season, to season 14.
16 Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo)
Losing a husband, a sister, a mother, a butt load of friends, and your own sanity can eventually take its toll on someone over a short amount of time, so it’s a wonder that title character Meredith Grey has managed to steer clear of a straight jacket all these years. Sure, Rhimes made her a bonafide genius surgeon with a family legacy to keep up with, but did she have to drag the woman through the mud so much? Seriously, Grey has faced death a billion and five times (drowning, plane crash, shooter terrorizing the hospital, getting attacked by a patient, to name a few. Next on the list is a manatee attack down by the docks, I’m assuming) and yet still seems to suck it up in order to step back in the operating room. Cut her some slack, writers – can’t you see she’s tired? At least bring back her person Cristina (Sandra Oh) so she can whine to someone other than her sister (the one that’s still alive) and dead husband’s sister.
15 Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers)
In all honesty, everyone expected the biggest jag weasel on the show to be killed off long before that complainer George O’Malley (T.R. Knight). What absolutely no one expected? That Dr. Alex Karev would eventually not only outlast nearly the entire original cast but become the beloved bestie of Meredith (taking the place of Cristina after she bailed on the country to go print 3D hearts overseas). Karev has become the rock of the show after becoming Dr. Arizona Robbins’ pediatric protégée and falling in and out of love with that atrocious blonde cancer survivor (Izzie Stevens) before finally finding a soul mate in his own intern, Dr. Jo Wilson. And, years later, he still looks like the very same state college frat boy who tried to nail all his female roommates without a hint of emotion.
14 Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson)
Dr. Miranda Bailey was once referred to as “the Nazi” (the sense of irony isn’t lost on us in this particular day and age), and yet was still one of the most beloved characters at the start of the show. She was a tough-as-nails mentor figure in the lives of the interns (and, in most cases, wound up too involved in their personal lives despite her attempting to keep her distance). 14 seasons later, and the tiny general surgeon has taken over as chief of surgery and still manages to get involved in the personal lives of everyone around her, especially when it comes to Dr. Richard Webber (you’d think those two are married instead of her and Dr. Ben Warren, but whatever) and Meredith. The woman just needs to take a much-needed vacation away from that hospital and everyone in it.
13 Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.)
Ah yes, Dr. Richard Webber, the man who has been through so much over the past 14 seasons, the hair on top of his head literally took off to get as far away from him as humanly possible. Much like Meredith, Shonda attempted to off Dr. Webber whenever he managed to find one shred of happiness in his life outside of the walls of the hospital. He was electrocuted and was knocking at death’s door when Meredith, his only daughter figure (until a real daughter stepped forward years later), kept him alive against his wishes. Since then, Webber has been through tackling his drinking problem, discovering that his former lover, Dr. Ellis Grey, had their child out of wedlock and gave her up for adoption, and marrying Dr. Catherine Avery. Oh yeah, and he was also almost shot by that same gunman who terrorized his hospital. No wonder his hair skipped town.
12 Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd)
When Dr. Owen Hunt first appeared, he randomly kissed Cristina after she was pierced by a falling icicle before disappearing for a couple of episodes. Later on, he was hired by Webber as their new trauma surgeon and ordering everyone around in a baritone voice. Oh, and he also suffers from PTS and nearly killed Cristina in her sleep after suffering from an episode – so that was fun. Even though he’s been around for a long time (and has married two different beloved characters that were way too good for him) he still manages to blend in with the background at times. So much so that I almost forgot to list him. Sure, he was good for a laugh or two when Dr. Teddy Altman was first in the picture, but his “WE MUST HAVE A BABY!” pushy attitude with Cristina turned a lot of fans off. I’m pretty sure he’s only still at the hospital to decorate the walls of the lobby.
11 Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw)
Dr. Arizona Robbins wheeled her way into our hearts during the fifth season of the drama after the pediatric surgeon on staff suddenly keeled over from a massive heart attack. She was bubbly, blonde, brilliant, and loveably down-to-earth. She also didn’t care what else anyone thought of her… except when it came to Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), her eventual wife and mother of her child. However, Shonda did her thing during the eighth season and took Arizona’s leg (and spirit for a while) after a plane crash. Eventually, the crash managed to divide both Arizona and Callie and the two parted ways later down the line. Now, Robbins spends her days flirting with new employees and often siding with Karev during times of crisis. Oh, and she still has those sneakers with wheels despite now having a prostatic leg. Now that’s talent.
10 Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew)
Much like Karev, when Dr. April Kepner came over after the merger of Seattle Grace Hospital with Mercy West, everyone hated her. She was a know-it-all little brown noser who would often tattle on co-workers in order to get cases herself. She was pretentious, yet talented, and it eventually got her fired (oddly enough, Kepner was fired a bunch of times during her years at the hospital). However, she started to grow on us after she was hired back and fell in love with co-worker, Dr. Jackson Avery. Suddenly, she wasn’t a scared little girl anymore and eventually became a pretty darn good trauma surgeon who thrived under Owen’s wing. Her marriage to Avery started to fall apart after a miscarriage and she ended up doing a tour for the Army as a surgeon, which drove the two even further apart.
9 Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams)
Okay, so let’s put it this way: all the residents that came over from Mercy West were hated in their salad days on the show. They were jerks who just didn’t care that the Seattle Grace residents were there first, so they started to attempt to steal surgeries AND the spotlight from the original doctors. Sure, Dr. Jackson Avery was pretty to look at, but he was a snake when it came to thwarting his co-workers out of surgeries and/or jobs. Eventually, after the dust settled, Dr. Avery became a beloved plastic surgeon who actually helped save the hospital from being sold off (his family’s company – the Avery Foundation – purchased the hospital, putting him on the board of directors). And, surprise, surprise, it looks like he hasn’t aged a freaking day.
8 Dr. Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone)
Technically, Dr. Amelia Shepherd, the little, former-junkie, sister of Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsy) didn’t first appear on Grey’s Anatomy – she actually appeared on the Grey’s spin-off Private Practice, a drama that focused on Derek’s ex-wife, Dr. Addison Shepherd. She eventually made her way over to Grey’s and immediately stole everyone’s heart with her pushy, brilliant ways. Even though she always whined about behind his her brother’s shadow, she has proved herself over the years to be a very capable (and just as talented as her brother) neurosurgeon. It was discovered this season that Amelia had been suffering from a massive brain tumor, which made her question her own intelligence and skills as a surgeon. Even though Derek was killed off, this Shepherd made for a very sincere replacement for Dr. Good-Hair.
7 Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington)
I think all the fans of the show are meant to hate new interns as soon as they roll in. Maybe because Shonda doesn’t’ want us to get attached to them all since she eventually kills them or sends them overseas? Anyway, this was also the case of Dr. Jo Wilson, who seemed out-of-place when it came to season 9 of the drama. Everyone first thought that she was a spoiled little princess, especially her resident, Karev. Eventually, like clockwork, we discovered that she was raised on the streets until she was taken in by a teacher of hers, who ended up putting her through college. Oh, and Jo isn’t her real name either. Oh, and she’s also married and her husband is trying to kill her. The girl is definitely a dark horse, but she and Karev have amazing chemistry, so her cliché storylines are forgiven.
6 Dr. Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary)
Even I have to admit that the arrival of Dr. Maggie Pierce was a genius move on Shonda’s part. For a second, fans believed that she was just thrown in to replace Dr. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), Meredith’s sister who was killed off in the plane crash that took Arizona’s leg, after it was revealed that she’s the daughter of Ellis Grey and Richard Webber. Turns out, Shonda had been planting little Easter eggs throughout the entire series, preparing fans for Maggie’s eventual arrival. Kelly McCreary’s chemistry with Ellen Pompeo and the rest of the cast was dynamic from the first time she walked on screen and she was instantly loved by fans. Our hearts shattered for her last season when her adopted mother was killed off by cancer (thanks again, Shonda), so we’re hoping nothing too bad happens to her this season. Except for, you know, falling in love with Jackson because, apparently, that’s a thing now.
5 Dr. Ben Warren (Jason George)
When Dr. Ben Warren arrived at Seattle Grace/Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital Whatever, he was an anesthesiologist who had googly eyes for Dr. Bailey. He eventually decided to switch over to surgery and swept Bailey off her feet, marrying her, and taking in her son, Tuck. Seen tragedy hides behind every corner of the hospital, Ben was eventually suspended from the residency program after performing an unsupervised surgery, which resulted in the death of two patients, so he went back to being just an anesthesiologist who makes buckets of money by simply turning a knob. Even with their ups-and-downs, both Ben and Bailey are still one of Grey’s favorite couples. Though, those jokes about him being the “oldest intern” out of the season 9 interns were pretty dang lame, if I do say so myself.
4 Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver)
When Dr. Teddy Altman first came on the scene, she was actually a “gift” from Owen to Cristina, since the latter was in desperate need of a good cardio mentor. At first, Teddy baffled Cristina with her unconventional ways, but eventually won her over with her skills and became the best teacher Cristina ever had. Problem was, Teddy was madly in love with Owen, who she served with while in the Army. Since Cristina’s relationship with Teddy was more important than her love for Owen, she moved on and ended up marrying a patient, who ended up dying in Cristina’s OR. Made for a pretty messed up triangle. Teddy suddenly reappeared in season 14, just in time to introduce Owen’s sister, Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer), a doctor everyone assumed was long dead.
3 Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacoma Gianniotti)
Yes, yes – I’m not afraid to admit this: I constantly got Dr. Andrew DeLuca mixed up with Nathan (Martin Henderson) because they sort looked like the same exact person, so it helped insanely when Henderson was written off this season when he got back together with Owen’s sister and they ran off to raise her adopted son in Los Angeles. So now, DeLuca is there, just looking like a less hot version of Derek (why do blue-eyed dudes have a monopoly on this show?) who speaks fluent Italian in order to throw off viewers. So far, we know that DeLuca had the crap kicked out of him by Karev (when the latter assumed that he took advantage of Jo) AND that his much more interesting sister (Stefania Spampinato) is now torturing him by working at the hospital herself.
2 Zola Grey Shepherd (Jela K. Moore and Aniela Gumbs)
And now for the awww factor of the list: Zola Grey Shepherd, Meredith and Derek’s oldest daughter. She was introduced in season 7 after she came over with a group of underprivileged patients Alex had flown over from Africa. Both Meredith and Derek fell in love with the little baby and went through heck in order to secure her adoption. While Zola has been played by multiple actresses, the two primary actresses who played her are Jela K. Moore, who played her as a baby, and Aniela Gumbs, who plays the precocious older version of her now. We’re learning that Zola is just as talented as her parents, and is just as sassy as her aunts Amelia and Maggie. And she still has so much growing to do. Oh, and Shonda – word to the wise… DON’T TOUCH ZOLA. LEAVE HER BE.
1 Dr. Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen)
When the charismatic Dr. Catherine Avery came onto the scene, she was hard to ignore thanks to her dominant presence. She’s Jackson very intelligent (and stubborn) mother, who is fiercely protective of her son. Since she was introduced, she had a serious crush on Dr. Webber and pursued him until she eventually won him and the two were married. She sometimes sticks her nose into her son’s (and former daughter-in-law, April) life, which never turns out well. She claims she’s only looking out for his best interests, but her actions often prove otherwise. She’s starting to do the same thing when it comes to Webber as well, which is just as annoying as when she does it to Jackson. Okay, Shonda, if you absolutely NEED to off someone this season, I’m sure a lot of people will agree in saying that Catherine is expandable.