For the last 13 years, fans have faithfully tuned in to catch up on the lives of their favorite characters on Grey’s Anatomy. Debuting back in 2005, the show gradually captured audiences’ attention and became a fan favorite. Each week brought new love interests, conflicts, and new hookups. As the show gained in popularity, the stars found themselves in a new spotlight. The ensemble cast became more popular in Hollywood, leading to expanding careers for many of them.
As the fame of the series helped the careers of its stars, more and more established actors also tried to become a part of the hospital drama. Grey’s Anatomy definitely became one of the most sought-after shows on television. However, the cast members eventually take their leave from the show leaving their unforgettable characters behind. By the end of season 3, viewers began having to say goodbye to their favorite regular cast members as more fresh faces were rotated in.
Many of the former stars reflected on the impact of Grey’s Anatomy on their lives and careers. While some actors found the time enduring, other reflect on their time with disappointment. Whether the actors left because of their own choice or were fired from the series, the effect Grey’s Anatomy has had on them easily falls into two categories: regret and adoration. In this article, we will highlight some of the cast and guest stars who have left the halls of the newly named Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital with feelings of appreciation or deep regret.
Here are 14 Actors Who Loved Being On Grey’s Anatomy (And 6 Who Regretted It).
20 Regretted: Brooke Smith
The character Dr. Erica Hahn helped to resolve several issues with the show. Not only did she take the place of Preston Brooke after Isaiah Washington’s firing but she served as a pivotal person in the life of Callie. Through their friendship, the two characters discovered their orientation. In fact, they became some of the first LGBT characters on the series.
However, before the two could explore their relationship, actress Brooke Smith was let go from the show. She told Entertainment Weekly that “…I was surprised and disappointed when they just suddenly told me that they couldn’t write for my character anymore.” Not only did she lose her role but she had just uprooted her life to move closer to the show’s production. She added, “I just moved my entire family to L.A., so it was kind of like, ‘What?’”
19 Loved: Christina Ricci
The season finales for Grey’s Anatomy have now become synonymous with major character losses, catastrophic circumstances, and plenty of edge-of-your-seat action. However, back during season 2, fans were unprepared for the first time one of these epic finales took place. Revolving around a patient with an active bomb in his chest, the entire hospital raced to remove the object safely. In the two-part season finale, Christina Ricci played the role of Hannah Davies, a paramedic that got caught in the middle of the bomb’s diffusion.
Ricci spoke with the AVClub about her involvement with the show: “They approached me with an arc for the Super Bowl episode, and I said, “Yeah, of course!” And I went, and it was really fun, and all of the actors were incredible. It turned into more than I thought it was going to be, for sure.”
18 Loved: Melissa George
Despite only appearing on the show for five episodes, actress Melissa George definitely left a last impression on audiences. Playing the role of unorthodox intern Dr. Sadie Harris, she managed to get under the skin of Cristina and many of the doctors on the series. However, Harris eventually left the hospital once it was discovered that she cheated her way into medical school with no real knowledge whatsoever.
George later shared that her departure was her own choice, however, she enjoyed her experience on the show. She said, “I love the show so much. I've made some beautiful friends. I love T.R. Knight. I love Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers… I adore Ellen Pompeo. I think she's a strong, incredible woman. And Katherine Heigl is the most beautiful creature on Earth." George left the show in 2009.
17 Regretted: Eric Dane
The appearance of Mark Sloane on the show brought a new dynamic to the love triangle between Meredith, Addison, and Derek. Not only was he Derek’s former best friend but Addison also cheated on Derek with him. Initially portrayed as the resident bad boy that jumped from bed to bed, he eventually settled down long enough to begin a relationship with Lexie. In addition, he became a new father with the birth of his and Callie’s baby. However, actor Eric Dane was let go from the show after six years. Since then, he has expressed distaste for both his role and series creator Shonda Rhimes. He took to Twitter in 2016 to dismiss her opinions using some very choice profanity. He also told French news outlet Programme TV that “In Grey’s Anatomy, I was just a piece of meat.”
16 Loved: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Although actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan gained fame thanks to his TV roles on Supernatural and The Walking Dead, audiences initially fell for the actor on Grey’s Anatomy. The growing love between Denny Duquette and Izzie Stevens served as a plotline in seasons 2, 3, and 5.
Although Morgan's time on the show only totaled 23 episodes, fans never got over the loss and still reflect on his brief time on the show. Morgan felt that the role gave his career the kickstart it needed after having already worked in showbiz for 15 years by that time. He even took to Twitter to celebrate his character on the anniversary of Denny's passing: “I miss Denny. BIG love to @shondarhimes for changing my life forever. Thank you. Xo”
15 Loved: Millie Bobby Brown
Given her sudden rise to fame thanks to Stranger Things, some fans may find it difficult to imagine Millie Bobby Brown in any other role. However, her early television career began with parts as early as 2013. With a leading role on Intruders and a few other guest spots, she landed an appearance on Grey’s Anatomy during season 11. Brown played a young girl named Ruby who had to give medical assistance to her mom while being guided by Owen on the phone. Ruby managed to keep her mother alive until help arrived successfully.
Although this role may seem like a lifetime ago to the now famous young star, she never forgot her time on the show. In 2015, she posted on Twitter: “I loved being on greys anatomy love the crew and the cast #GreysAnatomy”.
14 Regretted: T.R. Knight
After a highly publicized incident with Isaiah Washington, actor T.R. Knight decided to come out as gay. Although the firing of Washington should have relieved his stress, he soon realized his role on the show slowly diminished. According to Entertainment Weekly “… for the first nine episodes of season 5, he appeared on screen a total of only 48 minutes.” In the end, Knight felt that he should move on from the series to find new projects.
Knight felt that his time on the series ended on a very sour note. He stated, “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]… And with respect, I'm going to leave it at that." His character met his end in the season 6 episode "Good Mourning".
13 Loved: Martin Henderson
After the passing of Derek Shepherd, fans wondered how Meredith would manage to move on from Derek. Given that he was such a large part of her life and storyline, many questioned if she would move on at all. However, the introduction of Martin Henderson in season 12 gave fans renewed hope.
Sadly, his time on the show was short-lived, coming to an end after two years on the series. Even Henderson hoped he would continue his romance with Meredith stating: "I feel bad for fans who were keen on Meredith and Nathan making it, and not being privy to where each character would go… But it makes for nice drama and it’s something that Shonda does brilliantly: Dashing people’s hopes and expectations. That’s why the show continues to be successful."
12 Loved: Loretta Devine
One of the most heartbreaking storylines to watch on the series was the slow deterioration of Adele Webber’s mind from Alzheimer's. Having been part of the show since 2005, actress Loretta Devine found it hard to step away from the character for good. However, she found comfort in how the “tremendous writing” by the staff had made her diagnosis so meaningful.
In an interview with TV Guide, she shared, "They pre-plan everything now so by the end, everything just sort of matches up in an incredible way. The scene where I confront Meredith and I think she's her mother, where she has to tell her, 'No, I'm not my mom,' it's just incredible writing.” Thanks to the role, Devine received two Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and won the award in 2011.
11 Regretted: Patrick Dempsey
The surprising loss of Derek Sheppard broke the hearts of devoted Grey’s fans everywhere. Considering how long he and Meredith had been working on their relationship, it was impossible for fans to see her with anyone else. However, his departure from the show came about after several reports of backstage drama between actor Patrick Dempsey and Rhimes.
Since then, Dempsey has expressed his regret over staying with the show so long that it affected his home life: “I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule.”
10 Loved: Chyler Leigh
Lexie Grey, commonly known as Baby Grey, added a new relationship into Meredith’s life, forcing her to come to terms with her father’s past. Not only did Lexie excel during her time in the hospital but she managed to win the heart of notorious playboy Mark Sloane. Tragically, Lexie met her end in season 8 after a horrible plane crash, leaving a heartbroken Mark to mourn her.
Despite the sad ending, actress Chyler Leigh expressed her sincere thanks to the show and her fans in an interview with TVLine. She said, "My experience on Grey’s Anatomy is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I want to take this time to say thank you to the fans… Your unconditional love and support have made these last five years very special for me.“
9 Loved: Jessica Capshaw
Jessica Capshaw’s character, Arizona Robbins, held great significance for television. Arizona was one of the first LGBT characters to regularly appear on a network TV drama. Capshaw spent ten years working on the show before finding out her character would be written off in season 14.
Despite her abrupt end, Capshaw reflected on her role in a positive light: "For the past 10 years, I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins, but also being madly in love with playing her… I am sad to see her go, but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and our imaginations… Shonda, thank you for the ride on this incredible rollercoaster."
8 Regretted: Katherine Heigl
Some Grey’s Anatomy cast members expressed their dislike for the show after they left. Katherine Heigl, however, began sharing her negative opinions while she was still on the show. In 2008, she withdrew from the Emmys, stating “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention."
After that, she found herself being slowly eased out of the show, with limited appearances by the time season 6 rolled around. In the end, Heigl left the show in 2010, with 18 months remaining on her contract. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Rhimes expressed her displeasure over Heigl’s on-set behavior, stating that he set had “no Heigls” anymore.
7 Loved: Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato began her acting career as a child star on Barney & Friends. Since then, many of her parts incorporated music into her roles, combining two of her strongest talents. With an extensive resume of Disney TV and movie roles, the actress rarely got the chance to test her dramatic acting skills. However, with Lovato's guest role in season 6, her fans got to see another side of the talented star.
Playing the character Hayley May, Lovato portrayed a woman who had been misdiagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Lovato delivered a powerful performance on the show that awed many fans. Afterward, Lovato expressed her gratitude for her appearance in an interview with RadarOnline: “My whole experience on Grey's was amazing! I got to work with so many talented people and I’m grateful for the entire experience!”
6 Loved: Sarah Drew
Fans of actress Sarah Drew felt betrayed when news broke that she had been let go from the show. She shared on Twitter that she found comfort in the fact that, for her last weeks, she would be “surrounded by the community that has nourished and nurtured me for almost a decade.” Although she hoped that April would end up with Jackson, in the end, her character quit her job to be with Matthew.
For Drew, stepping away from her character at the end of season 14 felt like a personal loss. She explained: “She’s part of me and she’ll always be part of me, you know? She’s lived kind of inside [my] skin for nine months of the year for nine years, so yeah, she does feel like part of me.”
5 Loved: Cress Williams
As the star of the CW superhero series Black Lightning, actor Cress Williams has definitely gained a new legion of fans. However, many audiences have watched his star rise for several years, thanks to his extensive TV and movie career. He played roles on Living Single, Beverly Hills, 90210, ER, and Close to Home. Eagle-eyed Grey’s fans will recognize Williams for his portrayal of Miranda’s husband, Tucker.
The couple faced an unimaginable situation in season 4 when their offspring almost persihed from an accident with a bookshelf. Williams recalled how he channeled his own experience as a father to better portray the character. He told EW, “I was very proud of the work I did, but it was extremely challenging, exhausting, hard work to do."
4 Loved: Sara Ramirez
Beginning as a love interest for George, Callie Torres eventually developed into a groundbreaking character. She became one of the few bi characters to be portrayed on television. After becoming a permanent cast member in season 3, actress Sara Ramirez remained with the show for ten seasons. However, she actively decided to end her time on the series and move on to new projects.
On the night of her final episode, Ramirez took to Twitter to share her goodbyes. In her tweet, she stated: “I'm deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey's Anatomy & ABC but for now I'm taking some welcome time off… I send my Love to Ellen, the rest of the cast & crew, and I look forward to always being a part of the Shondaland family!"
3 Regretted: Isaiah Washington
In the most well-known case of onset drama for the series, Isaiah Washington’s fight with Dempsey and use of a homophobic slur spread everywhere. Although he did apologize for his mistake, he later contradicted himself stating there was no apology and managed to use the slur again on camera at the 2007 Golden Globe awards. He became the first series regular to leave the show back in 2007.
Although he did return to the show to finalize his storyline with Cristina Yang before she also left, his career since the incident seemed to suffer greatly. Washington stated, “I don't worry about whether or not the stories I tell will destroy my acting career because you can't take away something that doesn't exist. They [destroyed] the actor [in me] on June 7, 2007.”
2 Loved: Kate Walsh
The appearance of Derek Shepherd’s wife, Dr. Addison Montgomery, brought plenty of tension to his relationship with Meredith. The couple eventually broke up to give Derek a chance to rebuild his marriage, but Derek and Addison never came to an understanding and decided to divorce. Ultimately, the writers of the show decided to give actress Kate Walsh her own series to allow her character the chance for growth beyond Derek.
Walsh’s move to Private Practice greatly benefited her career. Walsh reflected on her time on both shows with fondness: "It's been such an amazing ride between Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. It's been such a big piece of my life.”
1 Loved: Sandra Oh
The presence of Dr. Cristina Yang was vital to earlier seasons of Grey's Anatomy. Acting as both best friend and top rival to Meredith, she became the perfect balance to her friend’s life. They both experienced love, heartbreak, and tragedy throughout the series all the while being each other’s “person.” However, after ten seasons on the show, Sandra Oh decided she wanted to expand her career beyond the Shondaland drama.
She shared with The Hollywood Reporter: "…Letting go of such a huge part of my life … I want to cry right now. Grey's has been the most important role of my life. Playing Cristina and growing her and growing myself in her, I want to usher her into the next section of her life in the best way possible. It's got to be Cristina Yang's happily ever after."
Which actor do you miss the most from Grey's Anatomy? Let us know in the comments!