After the coronavirus pandemic shut down Hollywood and halted production of Grey's Antaomy, the cult favorite series will be returning for its seventeenth season. But how much steam does the longest running medical drama on television have left in its tank? if you ask its leading lady, probably not much.
Season 16 of Grey's Anatomy was forced to wrap early because of the pandemic, cutting off at least two important episodes in the season's plot. The last we saw of Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and the gang, they were putting their brains and various surgeon skills to work trying to figure out what was wrong with Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.). Everyone who wasn't in Richard's OR was either giving birth, watching their relationship fall apart, or having an existential crisis. Utter chaos all around — you know, a typical Grey's episode.
The stakes are even higher for the upcoming iteration of the ABC drama, and not just because of the number of plot lines hanging in the balance. We might be looking at our very last season of Grey's Anatomy. In conversation with Variety, the show's lead actress revealed that she doesn't know how many more seasons of the medical drama are down the pipeline. Realistically speaking, the end of the show could be very nearer than we think.
Pompeo, who was also joined by fellow cast members (and directors) Chandra Wilson and Debbie Allen as well as Grey's Anatomy head writer/current showrunner Krista Vernoff for the interview, revealed that she's reached the last year of her contract as a star on the show. Should she decide not to renew that agreement and choose to seek employment elsewhere, Grey's Anatomy likely wouldn't be able to continue. The premise is literally in its title — there is no show without Meredith Grey.
"We don’t know when the show is really ending yet,” Pompeo admitted. “But the truth is, this year could be it.”
“I’m constantly fighting for the show as a whole to be as good as it can be. As a producer, I feel like I have permission to be able to do that,” Pompeo says. “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be.”
Since its 2005 premiere, Grey's Anatomy has helped really launch the careers of many actors; stars like Sandra Oh and Kate Walsh have gone on to do great things after being on the show. If it ends after this season, it will be a major loss for the industry and for the culture.
“I don’t take the decision lightly,” Pompeo said of the pending finale. “We employ a lot of people, and we have a huge platform. And I’m very grateful for it.”
Grey's Anatomy is one of those shows that could potentially go on ad infinitum — that's the beauty of a story based on a hospital — but if this really is the very last season, we better savor ever moment of it. Season 17 of the medical drama premieres on ABC on Thursday November 21.