EXCLUSIVE: In the ABC season 18 finale Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith made the decision not to move to Minnesota. While Meredith remains at Gray Sloan Memorial as acting chief of surgery, we’ll see less of her next season. Pompeo will appear in eight episodes of the upcoming 19th season, which begins production now. She will continue to narrate every episode and serve as executive producer on the hugely popular medical drama, which remains ABC’s best scripted series.
The cut comes as Pompeo takes on her first role other than Meredith Gray in nearly two decades – she is set to star in Hulu’s Orphan limited series based on the true story of Ukrainian-born Natalia Grace and her American adoptive parents. who claimed she was an adult “sociopath” posing as a child.
See photos of Pompeo in Grey’s through the years below.
Pompeo’s desire to branch out and take on new acting challenges is believed to be behind the decision to do fewer episodes of Grey’s. The ABC drama kept her busy as it produced up to 25 episodes a year for a total of 400 to date. (Season 19 will probably be around 22 episodes, I hear.)
Pompeo had seen his workload on the show dwindle a bit over the past two seasons as Meredith spent a significant portion of pandemic-themed Season 17 in a coma and was in Minnesota for most of the season. season 19.
While there have been talks that Pompeo could wrap up Meredith’s storyline next season, I hear there’s no decision yet if season 19 will be Pompeo’s last as a star – or the last chapter of the series. Grey’s Anatomy designer Shonda Rhimes said she couldn’t see Grey’s continue without his leading lady. (There had been intermittent talk of possibly expanding the franchise with a new medical drama spinoff if and when the mothership series comes to an end.)
Pompeo, who had advocated for the end Grey’s Anatomy in the past two years, last october spoke about his position-Grey’s career plans.
“I probably wouldn’t do movies per se, but I probably would do streaming TV,” said Pompeo, who had acted mostly in movies until she was cast. Grey’s Anatomy in 2004, said at the time. She had already started to expand into other areas, including audio series with her Tell Me with Ellen Pompeo podcast that debuted in September.
“I’m just trying to play in different areas and do a few new things, but I’m sure I’ll be playing again,” she said in October.
Shortly after, ABC and Grey’s Anatomy the ABC Signature studio has started conversations with Pompeo about continuing to Grey’s. She eventually agreed to return for season 19, securing the show’s renewal, which was announced in January.
I hear at the time, Pompeo had already decided to only do part of the episodes while continuing as narrator and EP as she takes on new acting challenges as well. After months of back and forth, she and the producers settled on 8 episodes. She started conversations about joining the Orphan series earlier this summer.
During this time she triggered Orphan, produced by the same studio as Grey’s, ABC Signature, and came on board as a star and EP, helping the project get the green light.
Eighteen years in, Grey’s Anatomy was able to reinvent itself multiple times during numerous casting changes, with Pompeo being the glue that holds the show together. The much-loved medical drama is heading into another transformational season, with Pompeo stepping back and five new additions joining the cast, Harry Shum Jr., Adelaide Kane, Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho and Midori Francis.
Here’s a look at Pompeo as Meredith Gray in all 18 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy: