Grey's Anatomy fans recently suffered a blow with the news that Justin Chambers left the series after 15 years without a grand farewell finale, and now they may be in for more bad news. Jesse Williams may not be around as much in the rest of Season 16. The actor, who has been part of the Grey's ensemble since way back in Season 6, will appear in an upcoming Broadway revival, and Williams can't be in two places at once. That doesn't translate to no Jackson Avery at all, though!
Jesse Williams signed on to Grey's Anatomy through Season 17, and showrunner Krista Vernoff explained why Williams heading to Broadway doesn't require Jackson leaving Grey Sloan Memorial:
I’ve known since the beginning of the season and I’ve been able to plan [Jackson]’s storyline [accordingly]. Jesse is able to fly back one day a week; we’re just making it work [because] this was important to him.
So, Jesse Williams heading to Broadway doesn't mean that Jackson has to be killed off, stuck in a coma, sent off on an extended trip somewhere, or get lost in the fog for a few months. Krista Vernoff confirmed to TVLine that she's known about Williams' role in the Broadway revival of Take Me Out and planned his storyline to accommodate the project.
The play debuts on April 2 and will presumably start rehearsals much earlier, and Grey's Anatomy will still be in production. Jesse Williams only working on Grey's one day per week means that fans might not get as much Jackson as they're used to. One day a week is not a whole lot of time, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson looks pretty exhausted when he does turn up in the rest of Season 16. Williams seems like he'll be going nonstop on one project or the other!
Still, one day per week means more of Jesse Williams as Jackson than fans will get of Justin Chambers as Alex Karev. Chambers unexpectedly announced his departure from Grey's Anatomy, and it turns out that his final episode was actually in the first half of Season 16. The killer winter premiere didn't give a definitive explanation for why Alex won't return to his wife, friends, and job after his visit with his mom. Losing Jackson altogether on top of Alex would have been rough.
The big question now: how will Grey's Anatomy accommodate Jesse Williams with Jackson's storyline? His big romance of the season has paired him with somebody on another show, but his relationship with Vic probably isn't enough to explain why he's not around as much courtesy of Williams' one day per week. Will Grey's Anatomy simply send Jackson into the background and keep the focus on the current love pentagon of Link/Amelia/Owen/Teddy/Tom?
There's some drama on the DeLuca/Meredith front as well thanks to the arrival of Alex's replacement, and Maggie is facing a dark storyline of her own. Perhaps giving Jackson a less prominent role in the second half of Season 16 will be as simple as not giving him any major arcs and focusing on those already in motion.