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Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are not going anywhere.
ABC has renewed its flagship drama for an 18th season after star and exec producer Ellen Pompeo, following prolonged negotiations, inked a rich new deal to return to the Shondaland hit. Pompeo’s fellow original stars Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard) have also closed new deals to return for season 18. Also returning to ABC’s 2021-22 schedule is Grey’s Anatomy‘s firefighter-focused spinoff, Station 19, which will be back for its fifth season.
While financial terms of Pompeo’s new deal were not immediately available, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the actress behind the iconic role of Dr. Meredith Grey secured another salary increase, and she remains broadcast television’s highest-earning actress in a primetime drama series. Wilson and Pickens are also said to have received sizable pay bumps for season 18.
No decisions have been made about Grey’s Anatomy‘s future beyond season 18.
The Grey’s renewal, which was further delayed by dealmaking for Wilson and Pickens, had been in the works for some time. Grey’s Anatomy had been headed into the home stretch of its shortened 17th season facing an uncertain future. Showrunner Krista Vernoff — who also recently closed a rich new overall deal of her own with producers ABC Signature — told THR in March that she was “planning a season and a finale that could function as either a season finale or a series finale.” In a season that has put COVID-19 atop the call sheet, Vernoff said the scenario was “hard and not ideal” and that she had asked Disney for an answer one way or the other before it came time to film the episode.
Deliberations between ABC parent Disney and Pompeo had been underway for months. Pompeo, in late 2017, signed a new deal that made her television’s highest-earning actress in a primetime drama series at $20 million a year. That pact covered seasons 15 and 16 of the series, with ABC extending the option to cover the current 17th season as part of the two-year pickup in 2019. Pompeo, who was vocal in a THR cover story about fighting for the salary she deserved with the hope of inspiring other women in the industry to do the same, sought another salary increase as part of the renewal discussions.
“Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy have done an incredible job of honoring real-life heroes by giving audiences an unflinching look at one of the biggest medical stories of our time,” said Craig Erwich, who recently added ABC Entertainment to his purview as president of originals at Hulu Originals. “Krista and her team of writers have continued to deliver the compelling and compassionate storytelling that is a hallmark of these shows, and created some of the year’s most-talked-about moments in television. We’re so grateful to our talented casts and crews for their extraordinary work that connects with viewers everywhere, and we look forward to sharing even more defining moments with our fans next season.”
In its 17th season, Grey’s Anatomy remains a massive asset for ABC and Disney. The series ranks as broadcast’s No. 1 entertainment series in the 18-49 demo and as ABC’s top drama series among total viewers and the advertiser-coveted demo. With delayed viewing, Grey’s averages north of 15 million total viewers and 6.18 in the demo, up 4 percent vs. season 16. The series is also a global phenomenon and broadcast all over the world. It’s also become a cash cow with a rich streaming deal at Netflix, where it ranks as one of the company’s most watched library titles.
In addition to starring, Pompeo exec produces Grey’s as well as Station 19. The dramas, exec produced by Rhimes’ Shondaland, are the last shows from the prolific producer remaining at ABC, her longtime home before she decamped for a nine-figure overall deal with Netflix in 2017 (in December she launched her first title for the streamer, breakout hit Bridgerton). Rhimes, who for years has said Grey’s would go on as long as Pompeo wanted to do the series, hand-picked Vernoff to take over showrunning duties. Vernoff was the head writer on Grey’s for its first seven seasons and returned as showrunner in season 14. She also oversees Station 19 and launched ABC’s Rebel, her first solo series following 13 previous attempts, in April.
“The writers, directors, casts and crews of Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 worked so hard to bring these shows to life this past season,” said Vernoff. “Keeping each other safe on set while paying tribute to the front-line heroes and first responders has been a challenge and a privilege. I’ve been truly blown away — particularly by our tireless crews — as they reinvented the TV-making wheel. Thank you to ABC and ABC Signature for the support and extraordinary partnership through this unprecedented season. We are so grateful for the opportunity to tell more stories.”
The formal pickup puts to an end speculation that the current season would be the last for Grey’s Anatomy. After initially balking at writing the pandemic into its storyline, Vernoff and the Grey’s writers opted to start the abbreviated 16-episode season at the beginning of the pandemic, as they felt a responsibility to portray the biggest medical crisis of our generation in a real and honest way.
To that end, Pompeo’s Meredith had spent the bulk of the season in a hospital bed battling COVID-19, while also filming dream-like sequences on a beach that have been designed to offset the weight of the pandemic-related storylines. For the beach scenes, Grey’s brought back original stars Patrick Dempsey — thus reuniting Meredith with her late husband, Derek — T.R. Knight (George), Eric Dane (Mark) and Chyler Leigh (Lexie).
Pompeo, Wilson and Pickens join Grey’s co-stars Kevin McKidd (Owen), Camilla Luddington (Jo) and Kim Raver (Teddy) with new deals for next season. The latter trio inked new deals of their own with ABC last summer that carry them through a potential 19th season. Still, Grey’s did part ways with two series regulars this season as Jesse Williams (Jackson) announced his upcoming departure and Giacomo Gianniotti (DeLuca) was written out earlier this year.
Grey’s Anatomy becomes ABC’s latest renewal for the 2021-22 broadcast season and joins fellow dramas The Good Doctor and rookie Big Sky as the broadcaster, under new president Erwich, begins its formal renewals ahead of its upfront presentation to ad buyers later this month.
Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new series order with THR‘s handy scorecard.
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