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.
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.