It’s no secret that Meredith is moving to Boston on Grey’s Anatomy — a life path made all the more conclusive when lightning struck her Seattle home in the Nov. 10 fall finale. And, yes, a promo for the show’s return in February teased Meredith’s last day at the hospital where she spent most of her adult life. Still, Ellen Pompeo’s step away from the show was originally reported by Deadline as a “reduced onscreen presence,” and not an actual exit. But on Nov. 17, Pompeo seemed to say goodbye to the series (like, goodbye goodbye) in an emotional Instagram post.
“I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!,” she wrote, adding that “none of it… would have been possible without the best fans in the world.”
Pompeo’s message further celebrated her avid fanbase. “You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!! I love you madly and appreciate you right back,” she said. “This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit.” She paired the goodbye with a snap of her in front of a neon “All You Need is Love” sign. (Ironically, the Beatles song is the name of a pretty cute Season 8 MerDer episode, where they try to find time to hook up despite being new parents.)
The silver lining? Pompeo previously told Deadline that she’d “always be a part” of Grey’s Anatomy. “I’m an exec producer on that show, I’ve spent two decades of my career on that show, it’s my heart and soul, and I’ll never truly be gone as long as that show’s on the air,” she said.
She also said she’d be back for the finale but didn’t specify whether she meant the end of the season or the series. And on that note, is Grey’s Anatomy ending now that Pompeo is saying goodbye? That’s unclear for now. Karey Burke, former president of ABC Entertainment, told Deadline in 2020 that “Grey’s Anatomy will live as long as Ellen is interested in playing Meredith Grey.” Of course, this was before the show introduced a new lineup of interns to breathe new life into the series… so who knows?
If you’ve been following Pompeo for a while now, you may not be too surprised to hear that she’s stepping away from the show. Over the years, the actor has been vocal about her desire to leave Grey’s and put her energy somewhere new — and as recently as 2021, she told Entertainment Tonight that she’d “been trying to get away for years.”
The impetus for her decision to finally do so? A new Hulu limited series based on the true story of a couple who adopt a mysterious child (or, rather, an adult pretending to be one), on which Pompeo will star and executive produce.