Grey's Anatomy: Where are the hit show's ex-cast members now?
Now in its 15th season, medical drama Grey’s Anatomy still has four original cast members – Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and James Pickens Jr (Richard Webber) – who have each appeared in more than 300 episodes over the show’s 14-year run.
But what has happened to the actors who once graced Seattle Grace’s halls and operating theatres but have since put down their scalpels and moved on? We all know that two – Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Sandra Oh – have gone on to star in hit shows, but we also have the scoop on some of the other players who made a lasting impression in Grey’s.
Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd)
Suave brain surgeon Derek – nicknamed ‘McDreamy’ by Meredith when they first hooked up (he was married at the time, so ‘McCheaty’ would have been more accurate) – spent 10 years at Seattle Grace. In that time he survived a plane crash and was shot by a patient’s husband before finally being killed by his own stupidity (a truck hit him while he was doing a three-point turn on a winding road).
Dempsey, who had been a teen heartthrob in the '80s in movies like Can’t Buy Me Love and Coupe De Ville, more recently played one of the potential dads of Bridget Jones’s Baby in the 2016 movie, and last year starred in the mystery drama series The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, as an author accused of murder.
He’ll next appear as a corrupt investment banker in the Sky financial thriller series Devils.
Sara Ramirez (Callie Torres)
Orthopaedic surgeon Calliope Torres first appeared in Grey’s in season two and quickly made herself at home, romancing George O’Malley before having relationships with fellow doctors Mark Sloan (who fathered her daughter Sofia), Erica Hahn and paediatric specialist Arizona, whom she later married. After their divorce, Callie moved to New York with Sofia.
After playing Callie for 11 seasons – making the character the longest-running LGBT character in US television history – Mexican-American Ramirez decided to take a break from the series.
An acclaimed theatre actress – she won a Tony for her role as the Lady in the Lake in Spamalot – she has since joined the cast of TV drama Madam Secretary, playing Kat, policy advisor to Secretary Of State Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni).
Sandra Oh (Christina Yang)
Christina Yang was the driven heart surgeon who became Meredith’s 'person' (they turn to each other for support, advice and darkly witty chats) from the first season of the show. After having an affair with Preston Burke – the cardiothoracic surgeon who was her boss – she married and later divorced Owen Hunt before accepting a job offer in Zurich.
Oh was already a well-known actress before Grey’s, winning awards for her role in the comedy series Arliss, and the 2004 movie Sideways. After she left the series, she took the lead role of MI5 agent Eve Polastri in last year’s superb series Killing Eve alongside Jodie Comer.
The role won her an Emmy – making her the first Asian actress to be nominated in and subsequently win the Best Actress category – and she has recently been spotted filming season two, which will be broadcast in the spring.
Jessica Capshaw (Arizona Robbins)
Along with co-star Sarah Drew, Jessica Capshaw was reportedly fired from Grey’s last year for ‘creative reasons’.
The daughter of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom actress Kate Capshaw – which makes Kate’s husband Steven Spielberg her step-dad – Jessica joined the Grey’s cast in season five as perky paediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins, who survived the infamous season-eight plane crash only to discover that her girlfriend Callie was the one who allowed doctors to amputate her leg. Which put something of a strain on their relationship.
A mother of four, Jessica has yet to commit to a new acting role post-Grey’s.
Sarah Drew (April Kepner)
Like Jessica Capshaw, Drew left Grey’s at the end of season 14, with her character April Kepner finally finding happiness after the death of her baby and her failed marriage to Jackson. In the end, she married paramedic Matthew – a very understanding bloke when you consider April had previously jilted him at the altar to run off with Jackson and, if that wasn’t awful enough, had also accidentally killed his pregnant wife.
Drew, who previously starred alongside Chris Pratt in the series Everwood, won the role of Cagney in a 2018 reboot of the classic cop show Cagney & Lacey but only a pilot episode was made.
More recently, she has starred in the war drama Indivisible and the seasonal TV film Christmas Pen Pals.
Eric Dane (Mark Sloan)
First there was McDreamy, and then along came McSteamy – plastic surgeon Mark Sloan, who joined the doctors at Seattle Grace in season two, making a memorable first appearance as he walked out of a bathroom wearing nothing but a small towel and a smile.
It was soon revealed that Mark had a history – he had had an affair with Derek’s first wife, Addison, and had slept with all of Derek’s sisters, despite Derek supposedly being his best friend. Once he had settled in at the hospital he also romanced Callie, Teddy and Meredith’s sister Lexie. One wonders how he found time to perform any surgery.
While he survived the plane crash that killed Lexie, Mark eventually succumbed to his injuries and Eric Dane left the show in 2012. He then won the lead role of Admiral Tom Chandler in the Michael Bay-produced series The Last Ship, which ran for five seasons until 2018.
Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens)
One of the original interns at Seattle Grace, Izzie was the character many fans loved to hate, mainly due to her questionable romantic decisions. She had a brief affair with best friend George, and treated Alex terribly (even though she married him), but worst of all was her relationship with heart patient Denny, whom she killed (sort of) and then had a romance with his ghost.
During her five years on the show, Heigl won an Emmy for her performance and also appeared in successful movie comedies Knocked Up and 27 Dresses. After she left the series, she hinted that she would return if asked, but so far no offers from the Grey’s team have been forthcoming, perhaps due to rumours that she and the producers didn’t part on particularly good terms.
More recently, she has voiced the character Andie in The Nut Job animated movies and joined the cast of Suits in season eight following the departure of series regular Meghan Markle.
Chyler Leigh (Lexie Grey)
Meredith’s half-sister (they shared the same dad) arrived at Seattle Grace at the end of season three and is remembered for her on-off relationship with Mark Sloan, who only realised how much she meant to him when he held her hand as she died in the aftermath of that plane crash.
Since leaving Grey’s, Chyler has recorded music with her husband Nathan West (under the name WestLeigh) and joined the cast of TV superhero series Supergirl as kick-ass Alex Danvers, whose parents adopted Krypton escapee Kara. The show is currently on its fourth season.
TR Knight (George O’Malley)
Poor, poor George. Possibly Grey’s most unlucky character, he had a crush on Meredith that got seriously icky (for the viewers, at least) when they actually slept together, caught syphilis from a nurse, cheated on wife Callie (with Izzie of all people), and then got squished by a bus while saving a stranger’s life.
After five seasons on Grey’s, Knight decided to leave – citing, at the time, "a breakdown in communication" with showrunner Shonda Rhimes. A stage actor at the start of his career, he returned to the theatre, appearing on Broadway in A Life In The Theatre alongside Patrick Stewart, and also had recurring roles in The Good Wife, the Stephen King adaptation 11.22.63 and US comedy-drama series The Catch (executive produced by Rhimes).
He also recently appeared, in two different roles, in the National Geographic-produced biopic series Genius, looking almost unrecognisable as J Edgar Hoover in the Einstein episodes and as French poet and critic Max Jacob in the Picasso episodes.
Isaiah Washington (Preston Burke)
Washington was originally considered for the role of Derek Shepherd, but instead took on the part of arrogant heart surgeon Burke, who appeared in the first three seasons before jilting Christina at the altar and moving to Switzerland (he later popped up in Sandra Oh’s final season to offer Christina a job there).
Part of the reason Washington left the series was a widely reported argument on set during which it was said he had used a gay slur either towards or around co-star TR Knight. Washington later apologised but his contract on the show was not renewed.
Since leaving the series, he has appeared in numerous movies and also played Chancellor Thelonious Jaha in the first five seasons of The 100.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny Duquette)
Morgan had already been in numerous films (including the underappreciated comic book movie Watchmen) and TV shows before he popped up as heart patient Denny in Grey’s in 2009.
While he only appeared in 23 episodes, he made a lasting impression as girlfriend Izzie risked her career to save him, he died in one of the saddest Grey’s scenes ever, and then it all got rather ridiculous when a brain tumour caused Izzie to imagine his ghost was visiting her – and she had sex with it. Check out season five, episode 10 if you don’t believe us.
Sensibly exiting the series after that mad plot twist, Morgan went on to play Jason, the detective Alicia fell for in the final episodes of The Good Wife, and is also known for his role of John, the dad of the Winchester brothers in Supernatural – a role he’ll reprise for the 300th episode in the spring.
Of course, he’s now best known for his current role as the spiked-baseball bat-wielding villain Negan in The Walking Dead, which returns on February 11th.
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