Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Will See Ellen Pompeo Appear In Less Than Half Of The Episodes

For the first time in 17 years, the star of the medical drama is taking a reduced role to pursue another gig.

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Scott Speedman and Ellen Pompeo are expected to reprise their roles in 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 19.
Liliane Lathan/ABC

If it seems like Grey’s Anatomy will never end, it’s because that may actually be true. The longest-running primetime medical drama in TV history will soon return for Season 19 — yes, Season 19 — which means we’re heading back to Grey Sloan Memorial in rainy Seattle for another year (better brush up on your Grey’s Anatomy trivia!). It seems like around this time every year for the past few years, there’s been speculation that the very quotable show may finally wrap it up, and yet every year, there’s a renewal. Even the show’s star Ellen Pompeo said on the Armchair Expert podcast in August 2020 that she didn’t want to be the “grapes dying on the vine” by staying on the show too long. For now, she’s sticking with it... but in a surprising new development, Pompeo will have a dramatically reduced role in the upcoming season.

What does that mean for the future of the popular series? And what’s in store when our favorite doctors do return? Here’s what we know about Grey’s Anatomy Season 19.

Is Season 19 the last season of Grey’s Anatomy?

As far as we know, no! Deadline announced that ABC renewed the show for the 19th season on Jan. 10, but the network made no mention of it being the last for the show. Pompeo also signed a new contract to continue to play the role of Meredith Grey, also upping her status from co-executive producer to executive producer. However, Pompeo’s contract is for just one year, so there’s a chance this could be the last season.

Then again, it could just be the last for Pompeo, with the rest of the doctors carrying the show until ABC pulls the plug. Lending credence to that theory is the fact Pompeo will allegedly appear in less than half of Season 19’s episodes. As first reported by Deadline, Pompeo will continue to do voiceover (although maybe not even every episode) and stay on as executive producer. However, for the first time in nearly two decades, her role as Dr. Meredith Grey will be scaled way back.

The reason? She’s set to executive produce and star in the Hulu limited series Orphan, inspired by the true story of Ukrainian-born Natalia Grace, whose adoptive parents in the US believed was an adult “sociopath” only posing as a child.

So, for now, it’s remains a bit of a mystery as to when the show will end — if ever.

Who will be in the cast of Season 19 of Grey’s Anatomy?

Well, despite everything she’s said recently, Pompeo will be back for Season 19, albeit in a limited capacity. She told Insider in December, “I’ve been trying to focus on convincing everybody that it should end,” and yet here we are. In addition to Pompeo, Chandra Wilson (who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (who plays Dr. Richard Webber) signed multi-year contracts in 2021 that should carry them through Season 19. Kim Raver (who plays Dr. Teddy Altman), Camilla Luddington (who plays Dr. Jo Wilson), and Kevin McKidd (who plays Dr. Owen Hunt) signed multi-year contracts in 2019 that should also cover them through Season 19.

Granted, that doesn’t mean the characters will survive that long. Sorry, we all know it’s true — Grey’s is a master of unexpected, heartwrenching deaths. And real ones know that, at this very moment, the life of Dr. Owen Hunt hangs in the balance following the mid-season finale of Season 18.

Sidebar: If you’re interested in Bailey’s storyline within Season 19, Cartermatt reported that in episode 2, she has a storyline that takes place outside of the hospital. Jo and Bailey enjoy their day off in the B storyline as the medical staff tackles a unique food poisoning case.

Series regulars who haven’t been confirmed for Season 19 but are expected to return include Kelly McCreary (Dr. Maggie Pierce), Caterina Scorsone (Dr. Amelia Shepherd), Jake Borelli (Dr. Levi Schmitt), Chris Carmack (Dr. Atticus Lincoln or “Linc”), Richard Flood (Dr. Cormac Hayes), Abigail Spencer (Dr. Megan Hunt), Zavier Sinnett (Dr. Zander Perez), and Anthony Hill (Dr. Winston Ndugo).

Also on the unconfirmed list are Season 18 newcomers Scott Speedman (Dr. Nick Marsh), E.R. Fightmaster (Dr. Kai Bartley), Peter Gallagher (Dr. David Hamilton), and Lynn Chen (Dr. Michelle Lin). And we’d be remiss not to mention that we’d love more arcs for Kate Walsh as Dr. Addison Montgomery and Greg Germann as Dr. Tom Koracick.

As far as new faces, a few first-year residents have been announced: Alexis Floyd as Simone Griffin, Niko Tehro as Lucas Adams, Midori Francis as Mika Yasunda, Adelaide Kane as Jules Millin, and Harry Shum Jr. as Daniel “Blue” Kwan.

Oh, then there’s also the slim possibility that we could get a cameo from Dr. Callie Torres! Well, that may be wishful thinking… but still. “Being part of the Shondaland family was one of the greatest honors of my life, one of the greatest privileges,” Ramirez, who is currently playing fan-favorite Che Diaz on And Just Like That, told People in December 2021. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the experience I had on Grey’s Anatomy, and my heart is completely open to going back and checking in with Dr. Callie Torres. But that would only happen if the writers’ room and the story really organically led them to need a character like Callie to come back.”

A fan can dream, right?

What do we know about Season 19 of Grey’s Anatomy?

We don’t know a whole lot about Season 19 yet. The only tidbit the network has teased is that Season 19 “will explore the ever-expanding world of modern medicine through the eyes of beloved returning and new characters.” Which, uh, could pretty much be applied to any season of the show.

In the current season, Meredith is spending a lot of her time in Minnesota working on a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. She’s also dating Dr. Nick Marsh (love this journey for her), and TBH, this sounds like a great way to write Meredith off the show if Pompeo is ready to be done. ABC can pull a Cristina Yang and relocate Meredith to another facility and just have her be this omniscient character until the show ends. This way, Pompeo won’t stay past what she feels is an appropriate time, but the show can continue.

"We'll see if we can keep it going," Pompeii told Deadline about her minimized appearance via BuzzFeed. "Still gonna be just fine without me. I’m gonna always be a part of 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.”

Because while 19 seasons are a lot of seasons, Grey’s still has a few years to catch up to the likes of Law & Order: SVU. So.

When Will Season 19 of Grey’s Anatomy premiere?

Grey’s Anatomy will, per the norm, be one of ABC’s biggest fall TV premieres, with Season 19 airing its first episode on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET. But you may want to set your DVR for a little earlier — Season 6 of Grey’s spinoff, Station 19, premieres the same night at 8 p.m. ET.

And just like its fans, show creator, and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes is just as pumped about the confirmed new season and the longevity of the series, according to Deadline.

"I couldn't be more excited that we get to keep telling the stories of Meredith, Bailey, Richard, and all of the other doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial for another season," said Rhimes. "This is a true testament to Krista Vernoff, the cast, the crew, and all the writers who keep the audience on the edge of their seat week after week. And it would not be possible without the generations of incredible fans who have supported Grey's Anatomy for so many years."

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