Grey's Anatomy Shocker! Expect Far Less Meredith In Season 19 As Ellen Pompeo Lands New Streaming Series

meredith in grey sloan on grey's anatomy
(Image credit: ABC)

Among all of the questions that Grey’s Anatomy viewers had following the Season 18 finale was the ever-present curiosity behind how much longer Meredith and star Ellen Pompeo would be around, and whether the show could survive without its namesake surgeon. Speaking to that, Pompeo herself has hinted the drama could go on without her, and now we know Season 19 will put that idea to the test, as the actress has landed her first new TV role in nearly two decades. So don’t expect to see nearly as much of Meredith’s return to Seattle this fall.

Specifically, Ellen Pompeo will appear in only eight episodes in Season 19, according to Deadline. The expectation for the new season is around 22 episodes, though that has yet to be confirmed. That said, fans will still hear her voice as narrator for every episode, and she’s still maintaining her role as executive producer. So she doesn’t appear to be setting up a full exit just yet.  

This huge update comes as Grey’s Anatomy is kicking off production for new episodes, so it’s not quite clear whether the medical drama will start up with or without Ellen Pompeo on the screen. Certainly, enough characters’ lives need updating that it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for her not to be around, but considering the finale confirmed Meredith wouldn’t be moving to Minnesota full-stop, and that she would indeed be sticking around Grey Sloan Memorial as its interim Chief of Surgery, it might be weird for the head honcho to go completely unseen when the show returns. 

That said, Grey’s Anatomy fans have perhaps been conditioned for this day to one day arrive. While Meredith hasn’t ever taken any mega-leaves of absence during the ABC hit’s prior seasons, viewers have seen less of Pompeo’s presence in recent years, whether it be because her character was in a completely different location or because she was meeting up with dead people within a COVID coma. But it could still be a shock to see that little of her in this capacity, while seeing more of her on another platform. 

What Is Ellen Pompeo's New Streaming Show?

As hard as it might be to believe that Ellen Pompeo made the choice to take on another TV show that has nothing to do with Shonda Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy kingdom, the actress signed on for a starring role and executive producer credit for a Hulu limited series inspired by the bizarre 2019 news story that echoed the horror film Orphan. The project currently doesn’t have a title.

The case in question involved Kristine Barnett, whom Pompeo would be portraying, and her ex-husband Michael Barnett being charged with neglectful parenting after allegedly abandoning their adopted daughter Natalia in an apartment and then moving to Canada. The Barnetts claimed they’d previously believed they adopted Natalia when she was six years old, but that the female was actually a mentally disturbed adult with a rare form of dwarfism who was conning them. 

Grey’s Anatomy is currently going into production for Season 19, which fans will be able to watch when it debuts on ABC on Thursday, October 6, at 9:00 p.m., following the Season 6 premiere of Station 19, which gave a few stars some promotions going forward. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what else is on the way.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.