'Grey's Anatomy' Shocker: Star Exits After 10-Year Run

Grey's Anatomy - Sara Ramirez-H 2016
Courtesy of ABC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season 12 finale of ABC's Grey's Anatomy.]

The doctor is out.

Grey's Anatomy fan favorite Sara Ramirez, who has played Dr. Callie Torres since season two, has exited the Shondaland medical drama.

The actress, a Tony-winning Broadway star, will not return to the Shonda Rhimes-produced medical drama for its previously announced 13th season.

"I'm deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey's Anatomy and ABC but for now I'm taking some welcome time off," Ramirez said in a statement. "Shonda's been so incredible to work for and we will definitely continue our conversations! I send my love to Ellen [Pompeo], the rest of the cast and crew, and I look forward to always being a part of the Shondaland family!"

Said Rhimes in a statement: "Dr. Callie Torres came into our lives dancing it out in her underwear almost a decade ago and I could not be happier or more proud of her journey. Sara Ramirez's performance inspired me as well as millions of fans each week. We wish her the best on her well-deserved time off. I will miss Callie tremendously, but am excited for what the future holds for Sara. She will always have a home at Shondaland."

News of Ramirez's departure follows a cryptic April 27 tweet from the actress in which appeared to celebrate wrapping season 12 that many perceived to either reference next season or as a way for the actress, whose contract was up this season, to leverage her fanbase to score a more lucrative contract. Now the answer is clear: it was her planned departure from the series. "That's a wrap for Doctor #CallieTorres #Season13 #GreysAnatomy #ThankYou for an enriching & unforgettable #Rollercoaster ride!" she wrote April 27.

Meanwhile, Grey's stars Pompeo (Meredith) as well as fellow originals Chandra Wilson (Bailey), James Pickens Jr. (Richard) and Justin Chambers (Alex) in addition to Kevin McKidd (Owen) continue to renegotiate new contracts for season 13. Sources tell THR that they are all expected to return to the series.

Ramirez becomes the latest star to exit the long-running ABC medical drama. Last season, leading man Patrick Dempsey (Derek) was killed off with a year remaining on his contract. Fellow original star Sandra Oh (Cristina) departed at the end of season 10. However, judging from Rhimes and Ramirez's statements — as well as the way in which Thursday's season 12 finale ended — the door seems to have been left open for her to potentially return if the actress so desires.

Thursday's season finale featured Callie and ex-wife Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) coming to an agreement about shared custody of their daughter, Sofia. The former couple, who was among primetime television's first lesbian weddings, had been mired in a nasty custody battle that concluded with Arizona earning sole custody. Callie and Arizona's final scene, however, seemed to leave the door open for a possible reconciliation for the fan-favorite couple as Callie was poised to move to New York to be with girlfriend Penny (Samantha Sloyan).

Ramirez first joined Grey's as a recurring player in season two and originally was a love interest for George (T.R. Knight). She was promoted to series regular in season three. Callie's10-year journey was as much about her rise to become the head orthopedic surgeon at the hospital as it was about her sexuality. One of Grey's Anatomy's most influential scenes included Callie and Erica (Brooke Smith) sleeping together. While that marked Callie's first time with a woman, the "I see leaves" scene is often singled out as among the most influential moments in LGBT pop culture for its accurate depiction of self-realization and coming out. 

While Callie has always identified as bisexual and has dated both men and women during the series, the character's relationship with Arizona (as well as Ramirez and Capshaw's chemistry) ranks the couple among TV's most beloved same-sex couples. Both Callie's journey as well as Arizona and Callie's relationship have been singled out for their realistic depiction of same-sex couples.

For her part, Ramirez (like Rhimes and Capshaw) has always been a champion of LGBT equality and has been recognized for her three-dimensional performance as Callie. She was part of the ensemble cast that earned a SAG award in 2007 and has been nominated for multiple NAACP, Alama and GLAAD awards for her ground-breaking performance.

"I've read a lot about that concept that bisexuality has not had a lot of support," Rhimes said last year. "One of my favorite things that we did in the [Oct. 23, 2015] Callie and Arizona episode is Callie announcing that she's bisexual, which by the way, I think nobody has ever done that on television, like 'I'm bisexual,' which I think is crazy. I love that she's determinedly bisexual. She's not somebody who is straight who discovers she's a lesbian; she's bisexual and feels very strongly about that."

Despite its evolving cast, Grey's Anatomy has always been able to weather the proverbial storm. Many diehard fans, upset with Dempsey's shocking departure, vowed to quit the series. The wave of displeased fans, however, doesn't appear to have hurt the viewership for the medical soap. In its 12th season, Grey's will finish as ABC's No. 1 series among the all-important adults 18-49 demographic as new fans continue to find the series on Netflix and follow the lives of characters including Pompeo's Meredith. While diehard fans of Callie and Arizona — or "Calzona" — will likely be displeased as many considered the duo "MFEO" (Shondaland speak for meant for each other), Ramirez's departure opens up greater potential to further explore Arizona as an individual. That originally was part of the appeal when Rhimes opted to split up the couple a few seasons ago.

"It's lovely to get to know Arizona not as somebody in a relationship with Callie, and as this person who has come through this relationship with Callie and who she is now," Rhimes told THR in January 2015 following the couple's on-screen split. "We're trying to figure out who she is now, and it's interesting to see Callie figure out who she is now. When a couple breaks up, I always ask: Where does the love go? It's not like you don't still love the person; the love just doesn't disappear. But you can't love the person. It's really great watching them try to figure out how to be friends, how to love each other as friends and co-parents, and how to support each other when the other person needs it without it being weird or without it being too much."

Share your favorite Ramirez moments in the comments section, below. For more Grey's Anatomy finale coverage click here for an interview with Caterina Scorsone (Amelia) and here for one with Camilla Luddington (Jo).