Grey’s Anatomy shocked fans last season by bringing back a slew of fan favorites who had gone to the big hospital in the sky. Meredith Grey was reunited with her late husband Derek, George “007” O’Malley, her sister Lexie, and Mark Sloan via beach hallucinations that ran throughout much of Season 17. And it looks like Grey’s is continuing the trend of bringing back the dead for the upcoming season as well, at least with one character.
Kate Burton, who plays Meredith’s mother Ellis Grey, will return for Grey’s Anatomy Season 18, as reported by Deadline. Burton is set to return for multiple episodes, beginning with the Season 18 premiere. She has made guest appearances on 23 episodes of the ABC medical drama, earning two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for the role.
On Grey’s Anatomy, Ellis Grey had a complicated relationship with her daughter, Meredith. The world-famous surgeon put work ahead of being a mother. She left Meredith’s father to pursue an affair with Richard Webber, and when he did not leave his wife, Ellis attempted suicide in front of her child. As an adult, Meredith struggled to live up to her mother’s legendary status all while watching Ellis Grey’s deteriorating condition as she suffered from Alzheimer’s. Ellis Grey died in Season 3. Regardless of their struggles, when Meredith gave birth to a daughter following Derek’s death, she named the baby Ellis after her mother.
Depending on the nature of Kate Burton’s return, Ellis Grey’s appearances might mean more for Maggie Pierce, who was revealed in Season 10 to be the love child of Ellis and Richard Webber. Ellis had put Maggie up for adoption without Richard’s knowledge of the pregnancy, and by the time Maggie tracked down her birth parents, Ellis was dead. If Maggie is in fact involved in Ellis’ return, it could be a huge emotional arc for the newlywed, as Maggie suffered greatly from the death of her adopted mother in Season 11.
It remains to be seen if Ellis Grey will return in flashbacks, or if she’ll appear in hallucinations, as Grey’s Anatomy has done with multiple characters – including Denny Duquette (a role that "changed my life," according to Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who appeared to Izzie Stevens when she suffered from a brain tumor; and Andrew DeLuca, whose spirit appeared in a couple of episodes following his shocking Season 17 murder. Whichever way we get Ellis Grey back, I really hope we’re done with Meredith’s COVID hallucinations. The gimmick was a fun way to bring back some familiar faces, but it’s time to dust the sand off and leave the beach in Season 17.
Along with Grey’s Anatomy, Kate Burton also starred on the Shonda Rhimes drama Scandal, playing Sally Langston. More recently the Broadway star can be seen as Celeste on CW’s reboot of Charmed. Grey’s Anatomy returns to ABC on September 30 in its regular 9 p.m. ET time slot. Be sure to check out our 2021 Fall TV schedule to keep up with the return of all your favorite shows.
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