Sandra Oh has played the laundry-hating and emotionally-closeted medical professional on Grey’s Anatomy for nine years now. She’s seen fellow interns and doctors leave the drama, including characters portrayed by Katherine Heigl, Isaiah Washington, Kim Raver, Kate Walsh, T.R. Knight and more. On Tuesday, the actress announced that Season 10 will be her last big run on the show.
Oh has been a big part of Grey’s Anatomy ever since Shonda Rhimes brought the show to series on ABC. She started out as Cristina Yang, intern and worked her way up to being a resident at Seattle Grace Hospital, with only a few missteps in between (my Grey’s memories are a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure she briefly left the hospital and took a bartending job). She also left Seattle for another resident gig, but now she’s back and whatever is coming her character’s way this fall will hopefully round out her story arc in a way that is satisfying to viewers.
Not that there’s as many viewers these days. In its heyday, the show was averaging more than 20 million total viewers each week, but in recent years that number has dropped drastically. Still, In Season 9 the show brought in more than 8 million total viewers each week and the ratings don’t explain exactly why Oh has opted to leave. According to THR, the actress spoke out at today’s roundtable for the show’s 200th episode to explain her decision to leave ABC’s drama, noting that her creativity with the character may be as spent as many of the show's viewers.
"Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go. It's such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go. We have to start the process, story-wise, for the Grey's writers to think of why she's going to go."
Back in May of 2012, ABC secured the contracts of many of the major players through Season 9 as well as this fall’s Season 10. Sandra Oh, Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, and Justin Chambers all re-signed on to the show, but now that Oh will be out the door by the end of the season, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of the other veteran stars followed. Once a drama series—and especially a medical drama series--has been on the air for ten years, it typically cycles through plenty of cast members, and as I noted prior, Grey’s Anatomy has been no exception. Still, Oh is the first of the big four cast members still left on the show to announce a departure.
Five years ago, if Sandra Oh had said she was leaving Grey’s Anatomy, it would have been huge news. Now, the show is not as popular and acclaimed as it once was and Oh’s character’s arc has been down several twisted and winding paths. It’s no surprise to me that the actress might want to forego a large paycheck in order to try to take on new roles, elsewhere, and we wish her the best as she spends her last few months on the Grey’s Anatomy set.
Season 10 of Grey’s Anatomy is expected to hit ABC’s schedule on Thursday, September 26 at 9 p.m. ET.