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The Real Reason Jesse Williams Left Grey's Anatomy

The hit ABC medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" is still going strong in its 18th season thanks to its legion of loyal fans. Even though viewership for the series has been declining in recent years, its series low still managed to pull in 3.5 million views in Season 18, Episode 7, which is impressive considering how long it's been on the air (per TV Fanatic).

One of the reasons "Grey's Anatomy" has managed to stay compelling over the years is partly due to its ever-revolving cast. The surgeons at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital are often accepting new jobs elsewhere, getting fired for some kind of insane breach in protocol, or dying in a freak accident. Who could forget the heroics of George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) who died after saving someone from an oncoming bus in Season 5? And of course, there were the heartbreaking deaths of Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) after the devastating plane crash of Season 8. Not every character exit is quite as dramatic, though, as we see with Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) in Season 17.

Jesse Williams left Grey's Anatomy because of his character's narrative

When Jackson Avery arrives at the then-named Seattle Grace hospital in Season 6 of "Grey's Anatomy," fans fell in love with the handsome and ambitious doctor. But Jackson encounters several hurdles throughout his time in Seattle. He has a rocky relationship with Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew) and once they figure things out, their son dies shortly after birth from osteogenesis imperfecta. Additionally, his mother has a brush with cancer, and he confronts his father who abandoned him. So when Season 17 comes around, producers thought it was time to say goodbye to Jackson so that he could take over his famous family's foundation in Boston. He was given a proper sendoff with April agreeing to move as well so that he can be close to their daughter.

According to Williams, Jackson's exit was necessary for his character's journey of self-discovery. "You have a character that is in transition and trying to find himself and running into a lot of obstacles, and something has to change or else you're just going to go numb and dissolve," he told Deadline. "So, it kind of just happened naturally through really honoring what's the truth of the character, not what I want or what the show wants, or what the fans want," he noted later on in the interview. "What is true for the character? Where would he find himself?"

Williams went on to say that he's happy how his character's story ended on the show. "He's going to feel alive in a way that he hasn't before, which is very exciting," the actor said.