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4 Signs Ellen Pompeo Was Ready To Leave Grey's Anatomy

Season 19 of "Grey's Anatomy" has felt like a new beginning thanks to new additions to the cast and a reunion with the return of fan-favorite characters. However, the show, which first premiered on TV in 2005, has also embarked on a significant farewell journey for its central character. Since the very beginning, former Marvel star Ellen Pompeo has portrayed Dr. Meredith Grey on the program, becoming the undeniable face of it in the process. Sadly for fans of the character and the series at large, it turns out that Season 19 will be the last they see of Grey and therefore Pompeo.

With the Season 19 Midseason Finale, the show officially supported the theory that "Grey's Anatomy" will continue without its titular character. During the episode, Dr. Grey decides to leave Seattle for Boston in the hopes of working in the field of Alzheimer's research. In perhaps an attempt at a symbolic touch, the finale also has Dr. Grey's house destroyed by a lightning storm, which really felt more like a letdown for fans. And it probably didn't lessen the sting of Pompeo's departure. So when the show returns in February 2023, Grey Sloan Memorial will be short one essential doctor. 

While it's undoubtedly sad to see Ellen Pompeo go after so many years at the forefront of "Grey's Anatomy," her departure isn't too surprising. After all, she's dropped numerous hints indicating her goodbye was on the horizon.

Pompeo has wanted Grey's Anatomy to end for some time

Ellen Pompeo dropped a major hint that her time on "Grey's Anatomy" was ending during a December 2021 interview with Insider. There she revealed that she's been trying to convince the minds behind the tenured program to let it end, though the powers that be haven't paid much attention to her comments regarding its stagnation. "I've been trying to focus on convincing everybody that it should end," she said, but why won't they listen to one of the most important on-camera individuals the show has?

According to Pompeo herself, the driving force behind the continuation of "Grey's Anatomy" is the driving force behind virtually everything else in the world: money. She continues, "​I feel like I'm the super naive one who keeps saying, 'But what's the story going to be? What story are we going to tell?' And everyone's like, 'Who cares, Ellen? It makes a gazillion dollars.'" Therefore, by her estimation, don't expect "Grey's Anatomy" to disappear from the airwaves until it fails to turn a profit — with or without Pompeo on the cast list.

Pompeo is exploring creative avenues outside of Grey's Anatomy

As the main actor on "Grey's Anatomy" for the past 17 years, Ellen Pompeo has devoted a lot of time and energy to the program. Naturally, this hasn't left her much time to explore other television shows and movies, as evidenced by her IMDb page. Since 2005, all Pompeo has managed to feature in is the Taylor Swift music video for "Bad Blood," a single episode of "Doc McStuffins," and two episodes of "Station 19," where she portrayed Dr. Meredith Grey. Her next project seems like a time-consuming one for her, and should've been a big indicator that her "Grey's Anatomy" tenure was coming to an end.

At long last, Pompeo will get to try out something a bit different thanks to her upcoming collaboration with Hulu. In a report from The Wrap, dated August 3, 2022, she'll executive produce and star in a limited series for the streamer, with Katie Robbins writing and executive producing and Erin Levy showrunning and executive producing. The still-untitled project centers on a Midwestern couple that takes in a supposed eight-year-old girl with a rare form of dwarfism. However, it soon turns out that their adopted daughter is not all that she seems, leading to all kinds of tense conflict.

Pompeo hinted at her Grey's Anatomy goodbye as her contract ran out

While her apparent wish for "Grey's Anatomy" to end, as well as her shift in focus to other entertainment endeavors, were clear hints that Ellen Pompeo was ready to leave the show, more concrete indicators are out there. One of the most telling of the bunch stems from late 2020 when she shared the status of her "Grey's Anatomy" contract. Pompeo revealed that it was approaching its final year and that it wasn't out of the question that the program would come to an end soon.

"I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don't know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be," Pompeo told Variety at the time. As we now know years after this interview was published, "Grey's Anatomy" still has a bit left in the tank. Although, with Pompeo gone, time will tell just how long it manages to stick around. Aware of this, she added, "I don't take the decision lightly [about leaving]. We employ a lot of people, and we have a huge platform. And I'm very grateful for it."

Pompeo's Grey's Anatomy appearances dropped significantly

Ahead of the premiere of "Grey's Anatomy" Season 19 — shortly after her eyebrow-raising comments about trying to bring the show to a proper conclusion — TVLine reported that Ellen Pompeo elected to renew her contract for the next batch of episodes. On one hand, this was great news for fans hoping to spend more time with Meredith Grey alongside the series' many other noteworthy characters. On the other, it later came to light that for the season, Pompeo would drastically reduce her presence on the program, making Grey more of a supporting player.

Pompeo's new contract was finalized in January 2022, and by August of the year, we learned that it involved her only appearing in a handful of the season's episodes. TVLine's report noted that she'd still narrate every episode as Dr. Grey, and she'd retain her executive producer status. Nevertheless, it couldn't have been more clear that Pompeo's days on "Grey's Anatomy" were numbered. Sure enough, as her new contract, previous comments, and other commitments have hinted over the past few years, her historic run on the program is officially wrapping up.