Not since the departure of Dr. Derek Shepherd has the cast of Grey's Anatomy experienced such a shake up.
Today, it was announced that longtime castmembers Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew, who portray Arizona Robbins and April Kepner, respectively, are leaving the show at the end of its current fourteenth season. Unlike some of the big departures in the past, like that of Sandra Oh's Cristina Yang and most recently Sara Ramirez's Callie Torres, the decision to end their storylines was made by the producers and not the actresses.
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“As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses," co-showrunner Krista Vernoff said in a statement.
Shonda Rhimes released a statement of her own on Instagram. "It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters. Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic—both the LBGTQ and Christian communities are underrepresented on TV," she wrote. "I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family.”
Drew was the first to share her feelings about the news on Twitter. "Thank you for all of the love. I know you’re sad. I’m sad too. I haven’t really had the time to process this information I’ve been with it for less than 48 hours, so I’m not ready to say my thank yous and give an all encompassing statement about my 9 years here," she wrote. "That will come later. For now, I’d like to say: I love you, and I love April, and her story isn’t over yet."
Capshaw also addressed the news on Twitter. “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,” she wrote. “Arizona Robbins is kind, intelligent, funny, insightful, bold, playful, fierce and really good at her job. She was one of the first members of the LGBTQ community to be represented in a series regular role on network television. Her impact on the world is permanent and forever. Forever. I am grateful that I have gotten to bring her to life and for the life that she has brought to me. 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. With a heart full of love, Jessica.”
After the news broke, rumors circulated that their dismissal had something to do with Ellen Pompeo's recent salary renegotiation and raise. The actress quickly dismissed the report, writing, "Its unfortunate that [Deadline] chooses to try to pit women against each other on #InternationalWomensDay #shameonyounotme,” and “I’m a big girl [Deadline] can take shots at me if they want but to the fans please don’t fall into that trap. This is above my pay grade.”
Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff also issued a statement reaffirming Pompeo's Tweets. "Ellen Pompeo has not only advocated passionately for her fellow cast members, she has taken the time to educate women worldwide as to how to advocate for themselves and that must not now be twisted," she wrote. Vernoff is referring to Pompeo's recent interviews with The Hollywood Reporter and InStyle, discussing her path to becoming the highest-paid woman in dramatic TV and how women can similarly fight for what they're worth.
Deadline has since updated their article to include Vernoff's statement, and clarified that they did not know of a connection between Pompeo's raise and the casting shakeup.