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Ex Of Grey's Anatomy Star Jesse Williams Says He Shouldn't Have Left The Show If It Affects Child Support Payments

Jesse Williams was a big part of Grey’s Anatomy for 12 seasons, and when he made the decision to leave the show in Season 17 — sending Jackson Avery to Boston to effect social change through the Catherine Fox Foundation — he left behind millions of fans clamoring for a Japril reunion. The actor also said farewell to a pretty nice and dependably steady paycheck as well, which seems to be an issue of contention between Williams and his ex-wife, Aryn Drake-Lee, as the actor is now reportedly having issues making his child support payments.

Aryn Drake-Lee and Jesse Williams share two children — Sadie, 8, and Maceo, 6 — from their five-year marriage. Williams paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees when they split in 2019, and agreed to continue paying child and spousal support. However, when he later filed paperwork requesting that his child support payments be reduced to reflect his now-much-lower income, his ex-wife responded none too kindly, per court documents obtained by Radar. In her eyes, leaving the lucrative life afforded by Grey’s Anatomy was his own decision, and if he can’t pay the agreed-upon $40,000 per month, then he shouldn’t have left the show. According to the docs:

[Jesse Williams] left a favorable, coveted, high-paying position on a successful T.V. show, in pursuit of his ‘own path,’ and now seeks to shed his family responsibilities.

In his request for reduced payments, Jesse Williams said his current gig — starring on Broadway in Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out — only earns him $1,668 per week, compared to the $6.2 million he made in 2019 alone on Grey’s Anatomy (plus $183,000 in residuals). He also said the amount he pays should reflect his children’s “actual lifestyle and not some exorbitant/imagined version.” Williams argued (per documents obtained by ET) that their children live a modest lifestyle:

Our children’s lifestyle was/is in no way reflective of the $40,000 per month child support. Our children have a modest lifestyle. They do not have expensive hobbies or attend expensive camps. They do not fly by private jet when we take vacations (which are already infrequent), and we do not have any vacation homes. I agreed to the child support solely due to my then significant Grey’s income.

It sounds like the former couple is in a really tough situation, and there are definitely arguments to be made for each party. Aryn Drake-Lee is right that Jesse Williams chose to leave the long-running medical drama, even though showrunner Krista Vernoff apparently agreed it was time for Jackson Avery to “change his environment.” On the other hand, uncertainty about Grey’s Anatomy’s future reportedly played into his decision, as Williams said he thought the show's end could have been imminent at the time. (Honestly, this could all be solved by a Jackson/April spinoff, so will somebody pull the trigger on this already?)

No ruling has yet been made regarding the actor's future child support payments, but we always hope that no matter what happens, the judgment is in the best interest of the children first. 

Grey’s Anatomy is in its 18th season, with at least one more to go after this one. The drama continues, sans Jackson Avery, at 9 p.m. ET Thursdays on ABC. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what new and returning shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.