Ellen Pompeo to appear in ‘limited capacity’ on 19th season of Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy will premiere its 19th season in October. There have been many cast departures and arrivals over the years. At this point, only three original cast members remain: James Pickens Jr., Chandra Wilson, and of course, Ellen Pompeo, who plays the titular character, Meredith Grey. However, it appears that Ellen is half leaving too. She’ll still be an executive producer and narrate each episode, but she’ll actually appear in only eight episodes of the upcoming season — that’s less than half.

The fine print of Ellen Pompeo‘s new Grey’s Anatomy contract is coming into view.

The actress — who last January extended her deal with the venerable ABC medical drama through the upcoming 19th season — will be scaling back her Meredith Grey duties to pursue other opportunities. According to sources Pompeo will appear in a “limited capacity” — said to be just eight episodes (or less than half of the roughly 20-23 episodes that will be produced). She will remain as an exec producer, and will continue to narrate every episode.

Meanwhile, among those opportunities Pompeo will be taking on is a new Hulu series, in which she will star in and EP.

As TVLine reported earlier today, the Hulu series — which is being referred to as the “Untitled Orphan Project” — is inspired by the true story of a Midwestern couple who adopts what they believe is an 8-year-old girl with a rare form of dwarfism. But as they begin to raise her alongside their three biological children, they slowly start to believe she may not be who she says she is. As they question her story, they’re confronted with hard questions of their own about the lengths they’re willing to go to defend themselves, falling into a battle that’s fought in the tabloids, the courtroom, and ultimately their marriage.

Curiously, Pompeo foreshadowed her new part-time Grey’s status back in May. Responding to a question from Entertainment Tonight about whether the series could live on without her, she hedged, “Shonda [Rhimes] and I, I think — we’ll see, we’ll see,” before adding, “Trying to reinvent the show and continually trying to reinvent the show is the challenge at this point, and listen, the show speaks to a lot of people, and the young people love the show. It’s inspired so many generations of healthcare workers, so, I think for for the young people, it’s a really good piece of content and we’re going to try to keep it going for the young people, not necessarily with me, but keep it going beyond me.”

Production on Season 19 is set to begin this week, ahead of a Oct. 6 premiere on ABC.

[From TV Line]

Some Grey’s fans speculated about this last season when Meredith had that long Minnesota storyline that kept her away from her hospital and disconnected her from the rest of the main cast. They thought Ellen had one foot in and one foot out and the storyline was to ease fans into a show without her. And right now it kind of seems like they were right. I thought maybe Ellen was bored and the Minnesota arc was a way to change it up and keep her happy. I didn’t think she would leave Grey’s before the series ended — the money is too good — but I guess staying on as EP and still doing narration and stuff solves that. I do wonder how they’ll write her out, since the Minnesota arc seemingly ended at the end of last season.

It’s interesting that Ellen will be pursuing other opportunities. She’s talked before about how she was reluctant to sign on to Grey’s because “[she] was supposed to be a movie star.” Not sure that would have worked out, but I think she’s good on TV and the Hulu series sounds intriguing. Disney controls ABC and Hulu so that makes sense from a contractual standpoint. Considering that she’s played the same character since 2005, I’m happy for her that she’s getting to try something else. I’ll probably keep watching Grey’s until the bitter end, but I care less and less with each original character departure.

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21 Responses to “Ellen Pompeo to appear in ‘limited capacity’ on 19th season of Grey’s Anatomy”

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  1. DrFr says:

    Supposed to be a movie star……Girl, please. You are not even the greatest actor on that show.

    • Not a Subject says:

      No need to be nasty. Not many people can lead a show for close to 20 years and still have really high ratings. She knows her craft well.

      • osito says:

        I agree, and I also remember that Pompeo was seemingly being angled for rom-coms, though she was in that *very* intense episode of Law and Order based on the Karla Homolka case. I think that had Grey’s not come along, she would have been a decent competitor for the roles that Katherine Heigl got in the aughts.

        I think Ellen Pompeo is interesting — I think she’s blunt and fairly rough around the edges, and she’ll definitely phone it in when she doesn’t care about the material, but when she does, she’s a really good actress. I don’t always like her, but I remember her when I see her, you know?

  2. Chic says:

    She been on that show for a long time. I never watched it much because I thought EP is an awful actress with annoying voice. Her costars were almost so much better.

    • Peanut Butter says:

      From the outset, I’ve never understood the appeal and staying power of Ellen Pompeo and this show, unless it’s for the amount of money GA must somehow generate. Makes me really appreciate creators like David Simon who commit to a 5-year arc, let their series go out on top, and leave us wanting more instead of wondering how long they’ll keep flogging the same soggy series.

    • NorthernGirl_20 says:

      I couldn’t stand her, I tried watching the first season and I just couldn’t get into it.

  3. Eurydice says:

    In that last pic she looks like Hillary Clinton – maybe it’s the head tilt and expression. I drifted away from GA the past few years, but I’m glad she’s finding other projects.

    And very helpful of TVLine to let us know that 8 is less than one half of 23. It’s also more than one third, but maybe that’s too positive a spin.

  4. Noki says:

    I have never watched the show, so its a soap? 17 years is a long time!

  5. Kokiri says:

    I used to love this show, & MG. When she told Derrick that he doesn’t get to criticize how she fixed what he broke, it was awesome.
    Still is, actually.
    But it’s too many problematic storylines (Owen, Arizona everything is terrible), and too many wasted talents (Christina, Callie everything).
    I stopped watching after Christina left, well, I watched but fast forward a lot of it.
    After Callie left, meh.
    19 years is too long. Coronation street I isn’t.

  6. Mel says:

    I haven’t watched in years and from what I’ve heard, I’m not missing much. Still, the show employs a lot of people so if Ellen can do a few episodes while pursuing other opportunities, go for it, I guess. It doesn’t sound like Meredith has played a significant part in recent years anyway, with the COVID coma storyline and Minnesota storyline.

    • Peridot says:

      That’s a good point about employing people. Like when Scrubs came back for a 9th season after their series finale because they wanted to make sure the crew had jobs during the recession.

  7. Ameerah says:

    I stopped watching years ago. And Ellen Pompeo is so obnoxious as a person that honestly…I couldn’t care less.

  8. Jan90067 says:

    My sister got me into GA during lockdown; I wasn’t interested in the show when it first aired, but I did get into it during Covid. The first years were *great*. Christina (Sandra Oh)…the BEST. PART. Hands down. Even Katherine Heigl’s arc, with Denny… great. The “ghost sex” was the STUPIDEST thing, with the plane crash coming close 2nd. I think with the first major cast changes…it started it’s fall. To me, EP was ALWAYS the weakest link, and the MOST annoying character.

    This new show of hers reminds me of an old Law & Order episode, of this girl, who was being fostered. She was in high school. However, we find out that this is no16 yr old girl, but a 29 yr old woman, trying to fool everyone. Have to say, the dwarfism is a new twist. But I wouldn’t watch another show of hers.

  9. CC says:

    It’s interesting that Katharine Heigl had the same complaints and people said, “Boo! How dare she denigrate the sacred text!”
    Fifteen years later and everyone thinks, “If you get the chance, make a run for it. That set sounds like hell.”

  10. CTgirl says:


  11. Mila says:

    They need to let this show die… oh wait it died when mcdreamy did. No it first died when Sandra oh left! Cristina is my fav ever

  12. Kirsten says:

    I cannot understand how this show is still on.

  13. Eleonor says:

    Grey’s Anatomy is my guilty pleasure.
    But I have always find EP the weakest of all characters. BTW she has been repeating for years she wants to be out of it.
    On another note: the spin off I would totally watch would be an Ellis Grey mini series.