Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama TV series on ABC. It’s currently in its 15th season, making it the longest-running scripted primetime show currently airing on ABC. It’s also one of the highest-rated TV show, and for good reason. Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the show, imagined a show that would break barriers. Diversity and women’s empowerment were just two of those barriers.
When talking to The New York Times Rhimes stated, "The idea of having a show about smart women who compete against one another was interesting to me." She also explained that, "For me, Grey’s was about me making a statement. I was making a television show that I wanted to watch and part of that was putting people of all colors in it so that you saw people like you on television."
Grey’s Anatomy is a groundbreaking show in more ways than one, but it doesn’t mean that the show is without drama, and that’s not just referring to its storylines. When a show features such a large cast, it's not hard to imagine that the different personalities could cause issues. While many actors speak fondly about their time on the beloved show, not everyone can say the same.
Here are four actors who regretted being on Grey’s Anatomy, and 18 who are grateful.
22 Grateful: Ellen Pompeo
Ellen Pompeo plays the main character, Meredith Grey. Yes, the character the whole show is named after, so she’s kind of a big deal. Pompeo has been very outspoken about women’s empowerment. In an interview with Variety, Pompeo spoke highly about Shonda Rhimes, saying, “With respect to breaking down boundaries and creating an environment for people in-house to learn and create and grow is something that she definitely talks the talk and walks the walk [about].”
Breaking down barriers is something Pompeo and Rhimes have in common. In 2018, Pompeo also became the highest paid woman on TV.
21 Grateful: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Before Jeffrey Dean Morgan became a TV star for his roles on Supernatural and The Walking Dead, he played Denny Duquette on Grey’s Anatomy. Denny was the love interest of Izzie Stevens, who was played by Katherine Heigl. Morgan played Denny in 23 episodes over Seasons 2, 3, and 5. Even though Denny was only on the show for a short while, he was loved by many.
When Denny passed away (sorry, spoiler alert), fans all over took to social media to mourn. Morgan himself also tweeted, “I miss Denny. BIG love to @shondarhimes for changing my life forever. Thank you. Xo”.
20 Grateful: Debbie Allen
Debbie Allen plays the independent and powerful Dr. Catherine Avery/Fox on Grey’s Anatomy. She has been on Grey’s since Season 8 and fans have fallen in love with the stubborn woman who takes what she wants.
Allen is a big fan of the show and Shonda Rhimes, telling Variety, “I think what she has is not just lightning in a bottle because it has struck many times. She has just reminded us that the hourlong drama is the most interesting, powerful, mind-altering television that can happen. It can influence your life. It just pulls you in, in that it’s serialized, it’s connected.”
19 Regret: T.R. Knight
T.R. Knight was part of the Grey’s Anatomy cast for five years before choosing to leave the show and his character, George O’Malley, behind. His departure was surprising and Knight told Entertainment Weekly, “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given.”
This statement came after he appeared in a total of 48 minutes of screen time throughout the first nine episodes of Season Five. Instead of questioning Rhimes about his character he said, “There just comes a time when it’s so clear that moving on is the best decision.”
18 Grateful: Melissa George
Melissa George played character Sadie Harris on Grey’s for only five episodes in Season Five. But even in that short time, her character Sadie had no problem causing trouble.
Melissa is an accomplished actor who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in In Treatment. When asked why she was leaving Grey's she replied that she just wanted to do something else. As NY Daily News reports her saying,
"I love the show so much. I've made some beautiful friends. I love T.R. Knight. I love Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers… I adore Ellen Pompeo. I think she's a strong, incredible woman. And Katherine Heigl is the most beautiful creature on Earth.”
17 Grateful: Millie Bobby Brown
Before Millie Bobby Brown became a household name for her breakout role on Stranger Things, Millie had appearances on shows like NCIS, Modern Family, and even Grey’s Anatomy. Brown played a young girl named Ruby during Season 11. During the episode, we only heard Brown’s voice as Ruby was trying to save her mom’s life over the phone while being coached by Dr Owen Hunt.
Even though she only appeared in one episode she enjoyed her time immensely, even tweeting, “I loved being on greys anatomy love the crew and the cast #GreysAnatomy.”
16 Grateful: Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams has played the role of the handsome Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy since Season Six. While Jackson Avery only appeared a few times in Season Six, he became part of the main cast in Season Seven. Williams’s character was married and had a child with April Kepner, who was played by Sarah Drew until her departure was announced.
While Williams was upset by the news and even issued a farewell message to Drew, he still has love for the show, saying, as Bustle reports, "Their immense talent speaks for itself but it’s them as people that I’m so grateful to know, privileged to have worked with and learned from."
15 Grateful: Chandra Wilson
Chandra Wilson has been open about the difficulties of working in Hollywood and how actors are judged by their looks. In an interview with BuzzFeed News Wilson stated, “It’s interesting, because our industry looks around and makes a determination of what your value is, and what your worth is.”
Wilson has been with Grey’s Anatomy since the very beginning in the role of Miranda Bailey. Diversity is one passion that Wilson and the show have in common. “I saw the pilot and I was like, 'Wow that's [from] America, that's walking down the street.’”
14 Regret: Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington played Dr. Preston Burke on Grey’s Anatomy during 62 episodes over three seasons. However, he was let go from the show after making a homophobic slur again co-star T.R. Knight. He apologized and made appropriate amends. However, while Washington thought all was on the right track, he apparently had the wrong idea. He got fired. Today reports him saying,
“I’m saddened by the outcome. I did everything that the producers and the network asked me to do. I came back under great duress and stress, and thought I was doing the job I was hired to do.”
13 Grateful: Sandra Oh
Cristina Yang was a fan favorite on Grey’s Anatomy. Yang was one of Grey’s top surgeons who was known for being demanding, ambitious, and the best friend of Meredith Grey. Sandra Oh played the character brilliantly for 10 seasons before ultimately deciding to call it quits. She gave it her all and was ready to let the role go. Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter,
"Over the past 10 seasons, I have been made better by Sandra's trust, faith, and friendship and I can't quantify how grateful I am for her collaboration on a character we both love so deeply.”
12 Grateful: Sarah Drew
Sarah Drew played the beloved character April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy for 202 episodes before being written off. Fans were upset, and while Drew expressed how saddened she was to be leaving, she had nothing but good things to say about the show, as E! News reports:
“I had a profound and incredible season of my life on Grey’s Anatomy…I got to build a platform and have my children in an environment where I was cared for because of who Shonda is and how she takes care of her mamas and her women. It’s hard for me to come up with anything I could be angry about.”
11 Grateful: Demi Lovato
Between her singing career, acting career, and philanthropic endeavors, Demi Lovato has quite the impressive resume. Somewhere on that impressive list is a guest role on Season Six of Grey’s Anatomy. Lovato played Hayley May, a patient who had been misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Her acting was brilliant and she communicated the message of the episode perfectly.
While Demi has gone on to do so much more, she loved her time on Grey’s telling Radar Online, “My whole experience on Grey's was amazing! I got to work with so many talented people and I’m grateful for the entire experience!”
10 Grateful: Jessica Capshaw
Arizona Robbins was one of the other characters written off the show. Reports stated that she was let go for creative reasons and nothing else. Jessica Capshaw had nothing but good things to say about her time on Grey's, telling People,
“I am grateful that I have gotten to bring [my character] to life and for the life that she has brought to me. I am sad to see her go, but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and our imaginations. Shonda, thank you for the ride on this incredible rollercoaster.”
9 Regret: Katherine Heigl
It’s hard to forget all the drama surrounding Katherine Heigl after she pulled her name from the list of 2008 Emmy contenders. Heigl was nominated as Best Actress for her role as Izzie Stevens, but E! News reports her saying,
“I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention.”
Producers were rightfully offended. Heigl found herself getting less and less air time until she finally left the show on her own.
8 Grateful: Chyler Leigh
Chyler Leigh came bursting into Grey’s Anatomy during Season Three as Lexie Grey, the half-sister of Meredith Grey. While she loved her time, Leigh remained a main cast member until Season Eight when she decided to leave the show and pursue other endeavors.
Leigh and Shonda worked together to give her character an appropriate ending. Leigh told TV Line in an interview, “I am very lucky to have worked with this amazing cast and crew for five seasons. My experience on Grey’s Anatomy is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
7 Grateful: Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine started on Grey’s Anatomy in 2005 playing the role of Adele Webber, wife of Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber. Adele Webber had a heartbreaking storyline after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and it was hard for Devine to leave the character.
But she loved the show, telling TV Guide, "They pre-plan everything now so by the end, everything just sort of matches up in an incredible way. The scene where I confront Meredith and I think she's her mother, where she has to tell her, 'No, I'm not my mom,' it's just incredible writing."
6 Grateful: Christina Ricci
In Season Two of Grey’s Anatomy, Christina Ricci appeared in the season finale as Hannah Davies. Grey’s season finales are known for being dramatic and emotional, and Ricci was right in the middle of Season Two’s drama. But Ricci was ready and excited.
She told AV Club, “They approached me with an arc for the Super Bowl episode, and I said, “Yeah, of course!” And I went, and it was really fun, and all of the actors were incredible. It turned into more than I thought it was going to be, for sure.”
5 Grateful: Martin Henderson
Martin Henderson only played the role of Nathan Riggs for two seasons. Even though viewers were still saddened that Nathan and Meredith’s romantic relationship was cut short, Henderson’s contract was always meant to be a short two-year contract. Henderson told Refinery29,
"I feel bad for fans who were keen on Meredith and Nathan making it, and not being privy to where each character would go. But it makes for nice drama and it’s something that Shonda does brilliantly: dashing people’s hopes and expectations. That’s why the show continues to be successful."
4 Regret: Patrick Dempsey
If there was one death that surprised fans the most, it was the death of Grey’s Anatomy’s heartthrob, Derek Shepherd. Patrick Dempsey was an integral part of the show for 11 seasons which caused fans to wonder about the reasons for his departure.
Rumors surfaced about how Dempsey and Rhimes did not see eye to eye. However, Dempsey set the record straight and let people know it was his decision to leave, telling UPI,
"It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier."
3 Grateful: Cress Williams
Cress Williams is most known for his roles on Prison Break, Close to Home, Hart of Dixie, and Black Lightning. But to Grey’s Anatomy fans, he will always be known as Tucker Jones, husband of Miranda Bailey.
While he only got air time in seven episodes, Tucker was mentioned often since he and Miranda Bailey shared a son on the show. When talking to Entertainment Weekly about his various roles over the years, he talked positively about his time on Grey’s saying, “I was very proud of the work I did, but it was extremely challenging, exhausting, hard work to do.”
2 Grateful: Kate Walsh
When Addison Montgomery was first introduced to Grey’s Anatomy fans as Derek Shepherd’s wife, fans of Derek and Meredith’s romance saw her as the villain. However, as we got more of her story, viewers couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Kate Walsh played the role of Addison for over eight seasons and felt like she was ready for more. She told AZ Foothills,
“It’s been such an amazing ride between Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. It’s been such a big piece of my life but it’s been nine [combined] seasons and there are lots of other things that I also want to do.”
1 Grateful: Sara Ramirez
Sara Ramirez played the role of Callie Torres for over 10 years before deciding it was time to move on to other pursuits. Callie was loved by fans and her innovative character was one of the few bi characters portrayed on TV.
She tweeted, "I'm deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey's Anatomy & ABC but for now I'm taking some welcome time off… I send my Love to Ellen, the rest of the cast & crew, and I look forward to always being a part of the Shondaland family!"
Sources: The New York Times, Variety, Bustle, E! News, Refinery29