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Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes was just as shocked to hear about Sara Ramirez leaving the show as the rest of the world.
At Vulture Festival in New York City on Sunday, Rhimes revealed that she “found out maybe three days” before Ramirez tweeted news of her departure after 10 years on the hit medical drama.
“This one was interesting. It was different because it wasn’t a big, planned thing,” Rhimes explains. “I had a different plan going and when Sara came and said, ‘I really need to take this break,’ it was sort of lucky that we had shot the end of the season with her going to New York.”
Adding, “I felt really good that we had shot that ending and that she said she wanted to take this break and we were able to give it to her because I love the woman and I want to do everything for her. It all worked out in that sense.”
Rhimes also took a moment to look back at other departures, like Patrick Dempsey’s (Derek Shepherd) at the end of season 11.
“For Patrick, people make such a nasty deal of that whole thing and I’m like, ‘Why?’” Rhimes questions. “I think people want a story on the outside that doesn’t have to do with anything on the inside. That was a lot of seasons.”
Ultimately, Rhimes is understanding of actors’ need to move on, and she reflected on keeping Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) around for a decade.
“You never want to see anybody go — you want them to be there forever. I find it fascinating that people are shocked that people are exiting. Think about this: most shows go for four seasons? The number of dramas that have gone for four seasons is under 50, and we’re heading into season 13,” Rhimes says. “The idea that Sandra did it for 10 seasons and then was ready to go was amazing. I kept waiting. Season six, season seven, season eight, I was like, ‘Sandra, are you good?’ Because I know what that is for an actor. You grow and change and then you itch for something new … you have to be really respectful of that.”
As for how long Grey’s Anatomy will last, Rhimes re-iterated that without star Ellen Pompeo, there is no show.
“I’m always surprised when Ellen is ready to re-up,” she admits. “Our pact is that we will go together. When she goes, I go.”
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