'Grey's Anatomy': Ellen Pompeo Could Leave After Season 17 — But She Won’t ‘Take the Decision Lightly’

As Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 approaches, fans question whether the new season will be Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) last. The beloved character has headlined the Shondaland medical drama since 2005. But recently, Pompeo hinted she could leave Grey’s Anatomy soon. That said, she isn’t taking the decision lightly.

When will ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ end for good?

Back in 2017, creator Shonda Rhimes revealed Grey’s Anatomy will end once Pompeo decides she’s out.

“Ellen and I have a pact that I’m going to do the show as long as she’s going to do the show,” Rhimes told E! News. “So the show will exist as long as both of us want to do it. If she wants to stop, we’re stopping.”

Then in an interview with Deadline from April 2020, current showrunner Krista Vernoff confirmed Grey’s Anatomy won’t drop its last season until ABC, Pompeo, and Rhimes allow it.

“I will not start planning the end of Grey’s Anatomy until Shonda [Rhimes] and Ellen and ABC all sit down together, tell me that this really the end this time,” Vernoff said.

But it doesn’t look like the showrunner is worried about running out of ideas anytime soon. 

“We’ve blown past so many potential endings to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ that I always assume it can go on forever,” Vernoff said.

Ellen Pompeo discusses leaving ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and Meredith Grey after season 17

In the Aug. 24 episode of the Armchair Expert podcast with Dax Shepard, Pompeo revealed she would like to “dip out” of Grey’s Anatomy sooner than later. 

“At this point, having done what we’ve done, to leave while the show is still on top, is definitely a goal,” Pompeo said. “I’m not trying to stay on the show forever, no way.”

Then in the above interview with Variety, Pompeo pointed out she could leave Grey’s Anatomy after season 17 because her contract ends this year. 

“I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now,” she said. “I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be.”

Nevertheless, the actor acknowledged her impact on the ABC series, particularly when it comes to the cast and crew. 

“I don’t take the decision lightly,” Pompeo said. “We employ a lot of people, and we have a huge platform. And I’m very grateful for it.”

Why Ellen Pompeo stayed on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for 17 seasons

Whenever Pompeo chooses to exit Grey’s Anatomy, the actor has made the conscious decision to stay for many years. During the Aug. 3 episode of the Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast, Pompeo pointed out she chose to continue the show because she knew it would provide her family with financial security.

“Personally, a healthy home life was more important than a career,” she said. “I made a decision to make money, and not chase creative acting roles.”

Now, it seems Pompeo has even more incentive to stay on Grey’s Anatomy as a producer. In the above interview with Variety, she revealed she’s “constantly fighting” for the medical drama. “As a producer, I feel like I have permission to be able to do that,” she said.

Pompeo also hinted Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 could be the best yet.

“You know, I’m just weighing out creatively what can we do,” she said. “I’m really, really, really excited about this season. It’s probably going to be one of our best seasons ever. And I know that sounds nuts to say, but it’s really true.”

Grey’s Anatomy returns to ABC on Thursday, Nov. 12.

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