Few shows have lasted as long as Grey's Anatomy has. The series just wrapped its 14th season on ABC and was renewed for a 15th. It has become a television staple and inspired a whole night of programming on the network. Thanks to Grey's, Shonda Rhimes has created her own empire and fans are obsessed.
Since the show premiered in 2005, Grey's has introduced fans to countless medical terms and truly taught the meaning of bad luck. The employees of Seattle Grace Hospital, now Grey Sloan Memorial, have endured deranged shooters, bombs and several transportation accidents (there's been a plane crash, a train crash, a ferry crash and more).
Each one is more devastating than the last, especially when it claims the life of a major character. It's hard not to fall in love with the characters of Grey's Anatomy; each one is different, but more often than not, brings incredible insights. But, it'd be impossible to get attached to these characters if the actors that played them weren't so great.
Grey's has attracted some seriously high caliber actors during its long run. On screen, their performances are incredible. But off screen, some of them aren't always the best. This list will countdown some of the truly wonderful personalities on the show, but may shatter some illusions on others.
Here are 10 Grey's Anatomy Star Who Are Legitimately Sweethearts (And 5 Who Aren't).
Since joining the show as April Kepner, Sarah Drew has been a standout. Fans immediately connected to her, and Kepner's devotion to her religion was a storyline not often seen on network television. In the latest season of Grey's, Kepner's arc has focused on her crisis of faith. It's been dividing for fans, seeing her become cynical and reckless, with some fans arguing that she's become an annoying character. But, they still love the idea of April and Jackson being together. So seeing him with Maggie this season has brought out some of the meaner sides of Twitter. At the same time, it's brought out the sweetness in Drew herself.
She recently Tweeted a message to her fans, encouraging them not to send hateful messages to Kelly McCreary (who plays Maggie). She wrote, "My beautiful, loving, loyal sister, Kelly, is a brilliant, fiercely talented team player who ALWAYS shows up and dedicates herself to the stories she is asked to tell." Given that it was recently revealed that Drew was let go from the show, some might expect her to be bitter. Particularly because reviving the #Japril relationship could have been a way to keep her around. But, she's handled herself with nothing but grace and humility.
Ellen Pompeo has been the heart of Grey's Anatomy from the beginning, playing the show's namesake. Her character has always been a little dark and twisty, but in a good way. In real life, Pompeo is similar in a lot of ways. She's a little rough around the edges and isn't shy about using mature language. She's from Boston after all. But at her core, Pompeo's a good one. When it was announced that both Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw would both be leaving the show at the end of this season, some speculated that it might be because of Pompeo's substantial contract. Earlier this year, she inked a deal to continue on the show for a reported $20 million.
Pompeo made it very clear that this was definitely not the case, noting that she was even surprised when the news broke.
She was even classy enough to give them both loving posts on Instagram. Pompeo thanked Capshaw, "for bringing it the way you have brought it for 10 amazing years... what a blessing you are and what a contribution you made to television history." Of Drew, Pompeo said, "Your passion and talent for storytelling has touched so many people provoked thought and Greys is a better show because of it and you." She's a class act, always encouraging women to support other women. Pompeo's been very open about her journey and her increased transparency after releasing her salary has only made her more admirable to fans.
Thanks to his time on Grey's, Patrick Dempsey may forever be referred to as just "McDreamy". He was the gorgeous, kind-hearted, albeit troubled doctor that everyone wanted to be with. So, when he was very suddenly written off in season 11, fans were in serious denial about things. According to reports, the abruptness of things was mostly because it was a one-sided thing. Dempsey wanted to leave, so they let him. But why couldn't he get a nice, open-ended exit like Sandra Oh rather than leave Meredith a widow? Well, that's also because of Dempsey.
Considering his character's personality, it's easy to think (and hope) that Dempsey would be just as wonderful in real life. Unfortunately, that might not always be the case. Early on in filming the show, Dempsey got in a heated altercation with co-star Isaiah Washington and from there, it seems things only got worse. Ellen Pompeo recently noted in an interview that, "You only get [written] off when your behavior is bad. If you're a nice actor, you [go] nice." Well, Derek's passing was pretty rough. Over the years, Dempsey's reputation for being a diva has only increased and he's even admitted that he "can understand" why people think that about him.
Since season six, Jesse Williams has played Jackson Avery, Mark Sloan's prodigy and low-key medical royalty (his grandfather invented the Harper Avery Award). His character is known to be a bit stubborn, but fiercely loyal and determined to make things happen the right way. In real life, Williams is definitely just as loyal. When the departure of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew was announced, he was among the show stars who wrote heartfelt messages to the women and fans. Williams made a point to mention how upsetting the news was for him personally. In his farewell message to the actresses, Williams not only highlighted their work on screen, but their personalities off screen as well.
He wrote in his Tweets, "Their immense talent speaks for itself but it’s them as people that I’m so grateful to know, privileged to have worked with and learned from." Off screen, Williams himself is incredibly vocal about social justice issues and his list of achievements in activism is astounding. Williams is the youngest member of the board of directors at The Advancement Project, the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, and in 2016 he won the humanitarian award at the 2016 BET Awards.
Compared to some of the cast, Camilla Luddington is still relatively new to Grey's Anatomy. She joined the show as a recurring character in season nine, getting bumped up to series regular in season 10. But, her character Jo Wilson has become a vital piece of the show. She helped Alex grow into an even more mature person and as of the season 14 finale, is officially his wife. But more importantly, her abuse arc early in season 14 helped open the conversation for women everywhere. Luddington fully understood the weight of the story and was happy to shed light on such an important topic.
She's incredibly involved with her fans on Twitter, taking the time to live tweet when she could and answered as many questions as possible. Luddington clearly has a tight bond with her co-star Jessica Capshaw. The two exchange adorable messages online all the time. If there's any doubt left of just how wonderful Luddington is, it should be cleared up by her loyalty to her other castmates. When one publication suggested audiences should feel sorry for Sarah Drew after her Cagney and Lacey reboot didn't get picked up, Luddington stepped in. She Tweeted that instead of pitying Drew, fans should celebrate that she actually has a new movie coming out soon.
When Grey's Anatomy began, it followed five central characters, beginning their internship at Seattle Grace Hospital. Among those five was Izzy Stevens, played by Katherine Heigl. Her character was known for her empathy, as it was both her biggest strength and her fatal flaw. It's no secret that Heigl's exit was a dramatic one. She was very open about the fact that she didn't like the writing she was being given for Izzy. She was so open in fact, that she took herself out of Emmy contention because she didn't think the work merited the award.
Thanks to the stories surrounding her departure, she became known as someone who is hard to work with.
Shonda Rhimes even used Heigl's name as a general term for describing difficult actors. During an interview about one of her other shows, Scandal, in 2014 Rhimes noted that it was a great environment and that "there are no Heigls in this situation." These days though, it seems she might've turned things around. During an appearance on Howard Stern's radio show in 2016, Heigl admitted that she handled things wrong. She added that she should've just told herself to "Shut up, Katie." After years of media criticism, Heigl has worked to get back into the public's good graces and began her run on Suits this season.
Out of the original five on Grey's Anatomy, Alex Karev was probably the most instantly unlikable. He was arrogant, condescending and oftentimes, just generally wrong. But, that starting spot is exactly what's made him so compelling through 14 seasons of Grey's Anatomy. Fans have loved Alex's evolution from angry and unlovable to supportive friend. When Christina left, he stepped up to become Meredith Grey's person and has done a great job. He's learned from his mistakes and even found love again. In the real world, Justin Chambers is even more lovable.
According to his castmates, Chambers struggles the most with the complicated lines on the show, but it makes for hilarious bloopers. But on top of his humor, Chambers has a huge heart, especially for his coworkers. He tends to lose sleep when they're struggling, literally. Chambers suffers from a biological sleep disorder. As a result, there have been times where he's only slept for a single hour over an entire week. One of his worst bouts came in 2008, as Chambers was so worried about the Grey's crew losing their jobs during the writer's strike – the show completely halted shooting – that he reached the point where he decided to seek professional treatment.
Meredith Grey can be difficult to deal with at times. Particularly in the early seasons of Grey's, she was in a very dark place and didn't confide in many people. The one person she trusted above all else was, well, her person. Cristina Yang was just as dark and twisty, if not more so. She was smart, calculating and drive, along with being the perfect best friend for Meredith. Being one of the few remaining series originals, Sandra Oh's exit was hard for fans to accept, but, she handled it in the perfect way. The decision to leave was very mutual between Oh and the showrunners. According to her on-screen BFF Pompeo, Oh was very clear on the fact that she only wanted to do 10 seasons. Pompeo even went so far as to say "they don't get much classier than Sandra Oh."
Her character of Christina Yang was generally pretty blunt and oftentimes rude. In real life, Sandra Oh is the opposite. She was nominated for, and won, several awards during her time on Grey's, snagging Emmy noms after seasons one and two. Both times, Oh opted to take her parents to the awards show with her. More than being fun to work with, Oh is known for being incredibly humble. During an interview on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight in 2012, she noted that she doesn't consider herself a celebrity. She just focuses on being an artist and putting out good work.
It's a bit hard to believe that before Christina, Meredith didn't have any friends. She was dedicated to her job, but she was never outright antisocial. In season five, the Grey's Anatomy showrunners decided to introduced Meredith's former best friend Sadie Harris, played by Melissa George. The character got pretty mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, as a whole she wasn't the greatest person. She was characterized as reckless and someone who never really thought everything through. In her final episodes, it was revealed that Sadie actually cheated her way into the residency program and she departed shortly thereafter, never becoming a series regular.
Off screen, Melissa George has had some struggles In 2017, she had a serious altercation with her boyfriend which ended in both of them being charged with assault. The sad part is that their children had to suffer through the court battles as well. The courts ordered that George and her boyfriend have joint custody of their kids, meaning neither one could take the kids out of the country without written permission from the other. But, just a few days after the assault, George attempted to take her kids with her to the U.S., leading to her facing kidnapping charges.
Before she was keeping the Earth safe from other-world visitors on Supergirl, Chyler Leigh was solely saving the residents of Seattle. Lexie Grey quickly became a fan-favorite character and her passing was particularly heartbreaking. She was one of the lives claimed by the infamous Grey's plane crash. It was especially rough on fans because she and Mark had literally just made plans for the rest of their lives. The decision to write off Lexie was reportedly a mutual one. At the start of season eight, showrunner Shonda Rhimes allowed Leigh an extended hiatus so she could spend time with her family.
Leigh he was mostly absent from the first few episodes of the season and made her departure at the end of it to be with her family.
In 2014, two years after her final episode, Leigh revealed that starring on Grey's was "not worth it.", but she didn't mean it with hostility. She clarified in the same statement that she loved every bit of her time on the show and it was only problematic because she was missing out on her kids' lives. She had nothing but kind words for Grey's Anatomy and even gave a nod to it in a recent episode of Supergirl. While administering a few tests for a friend, her character Alex notes that before she joined the DEO, she wanted to be a doctor and even had a gig lined up in Seattle.
Giacomo Gianniotti is one of the newest members of the Grey's Anatomy cast, having just been made a series regular in 2016. But, fans quickly grew to love him. As Andrew DeLuca, he's kind of like "McDreamy junior". He has arguably the cutest character bio on ABC's site, listing that he likes surgery, ingenuity, Maggie Pierce, and second dates. DeLuca's dislikes include, people spreading rumors about him, baseball, and awkward moments. His real life counterpart seems to be just as sweet and lovable.
In his free time, Gianniotti is heavily involved in charitable work, particularly with an organization called My Friend's Place. The organization is devoted to helping homeless youth in Los Angeles. Gianniotti even competed in Tough Mudder with his castmates to raise money for the charity. Looking at his Instagram, it seems Giannotti is also a serious family man. He's shared pictures in the past of his sister, captioning the shot with how incredibly proud he is of her. It's not just goofy older brother kind of love. Gianniotti went deep, describing her with love as "such a beautiful, smart, funny, creative, deep young woman."
One of the first major exits on Grey's was that of Dr. Burke. Fans were devastated when he left Christina at the altar, even though their relationship was clearly toxic for both of them. In season 10, Burke returned briefly for an episode appropriately titled "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Behind the scenes, it was also one of the most controversial departures of the entire series. The exact details have never been totally clear; the only thing that's known for sure is that Washington and Dempsey got into a heated argument. During the spat, Washington hurled profanities at Dempsey.
In an interview with Larry King in 2007, Washington owned up to telling Dempsey, "There’s no way you’re going to treat me [poorly].” According to most reports, that wasn't quite how it went down. Apparently, something he said was not meant as a homophobic slur and Washington did not use it in reference to co-star T.R. Knight in the argument. However, Knight himself has said that the slur was used against him in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. He admitted it was one of the huge motivations behind him publicly coming out. Washington denied this, outright saying that Knight lied about it. He even went so far as to suggests that Knight solely made the claim to get ahead in his career and get more money because he was unhappy about what was happening with George on the show.
As the pediatric surgeon at Grey Sloan Memorial, Dr. Arizona Robbins is kind of expected to be a sweetheart. She works with kids all day and needs to have a sunny demeanor. But for the most part, she has that personality with most people. It even caused a rift between her and Callie Torres when Robbins called George's decision to join the army "awesome." Since joining Grey's in season five, Robbins has become an incredibly important character. She's been a beacon of representation for the LGBT community and that hasn't been lost on Jessica Capshaw, the actress who portrays Arizona. She's taken her role very seriously and made sure to do it justice.
Off screen, Capshaw is just as fun as Arizona Robbins.
In 2017, she divulged 25 fun facts about herself to Us Weekly, putting her humor on full display. She discussed her most embarrassing moment and revealed her childhood crush: Michael J. Fox. But what really confirms her sweetheart status is her attitude toward other people. Capshaw revealed that she fangirled over Michelle Obama, praising her intelligence and professionalism. She went on to note what she doesn't like in people saying, "I cannot abide people who are unkind, rude, stingy, sexist, racist or just plain mean. I could add more but those are the big ones."
Miranda Bailey is nothing short of iconic. The writers made it clear from day one that Bailey wasn't going to take flack from anyone. She'll even tell off her superiors when necessary and it has indeed been necessary at times. Bailey's nickname at the start of the show was The Nazi. She was so strict and so scary that her interns were terrified to get on her bad side. In real life, Chandra Wilson couldn't be more different. She's known as someone who is good-natured and bubbly all the time. In an interview with Glamour, when asked which cast member is always in a good mood, even at 5 a.m., most of the actors said Wilson. Wilson even named herself too.
She's a devoted mother and even used her own life to inspire an episode of Grey's and help others. In 2017, Wilson opened up about her daughter's mysterious illness that the family was working through. After months of confusion and struggle, doctors finally diagnosed her daughter with cyclic vomiting syndrome, or CVS. Drawing from the terrifying experience, Wilson brought the story to Grey's and directed an episode that mirrored her family's struggle to find a diagnosis. She used her platform to seriously help families all around the world.
Of the original five interns, George O'Malley's departure from Grey's was without a doubt the saddest. It was a noble final act and one that totally fit George's character. In actuality, it only happened because T.R. Knight wasn't pleased with the material he was being given – or more specifically, the amount of material. According to reports, Knight was unhappy with the amount of screen time George was getting. Doing the math, it makes some sense. At the beginning of season five, Sandra Oh's Christina got 114 minutes in five episodes, compared to Knight's 48 minutes in the same time span.
Then he made things a bit personal. In an interview with EW following his final episode, Knight publicly aired his grievances with Shonda Rhimes. He put things pretty bluntly, saying, “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George].” It's one thing to let the numbers speak for themselves. But outright dragging Shonda through the mud was a bit more than necessary. Since exiting Grey's, Knight has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. So hopefully he's made his peace with things.
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