July 27, 2012 11:19am PT by Lesley Goldberg
TCA 2012: ABC Chief on 'Grey's Anatomy' Shakeup: 'You've Seen the Major Moves'
ABC chief Paul Lee isn't worried about the cast shakeup on Grey's Anatomy, and with showrunner Shonda Rhimes, he's exploring options to continue Private Practice without star Kate Walsh.
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter if he's concerned about Grey's -- ABC's top drama -- following the overhaul that will see three (and potentially more) castmembers depart, the network executive expressed confidence in the series.
"If you look at what Shonda has done, the season that show is in, she has maintained the critical dynamic, the creative dynamism for such a long time," he told reporters following his session Friday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Beverly Hills. "I love to see her taking risks and reinventing the show ever year."
The season-eight finale in May featured the death of castmember Chyler Leigh's Lexie Grey and the departure of Kim Raver's Teddy. Rhimes confirmed that both actresses are moving on from the medical drama. In addition, co-star Eric Dane, who has played Mark "McSteamy" Slone since season two, announced this week that he is leaving after wrapping his storyline in a handful of episodes in the ninth season.
"I think you've seen the major moves," Lee said of whether there could be additional castmembers departing following the plane crash in the season finale that left Mark, Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), Derek (Patrick Dempsey), Cristina (Sandra Oh) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) stranded and, for some, clinging to life.
"We had a great cliffhanger last year, and we're excited with where she's going with that show," Lee noted. "[Rhimes is] ambitious about Grey's Anatomy … I'm fully supportive, and I love what she does."
Co-stars Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr., Oh, Dempsey and Pompeo inked two-year deals to return to the medical drama. The season finale left the door open for other actors to exit, either to other hospitals as their characters move on, or as victims of the crash.
As for the future of Rhimes' Private Practice -- the second of her three series on ABC, joining second-year drama Scandal -- Lee reaffirmed that the series could continue beyond its 13-episode order, with star Walsh (Addison) confirming her departure after the initial run.
"Private Practice is a great show," he told reporters. "We did the flip from Thursday to Tuesday, and it actually increased ratings on both time slots. We think that's got a lot of energy; we'd like to see that continue."
"We're looking at various options as we go through that," Lee said of plans for the series post-Walsh.
Grey's Anatomy returns Sept. 27, Private Practice on Sept. 25.