Grey’s Anatomy Showrunner Uses Great Cristina Yang And Jo Wilson Comparison To Explain How The Show Keeps Things Fresh After 18 Seasons

When a series has been on the air for a long time, it can become a concern that the writers will run out of new things to do with the characters and start to recycle storylines. That’s apparently a huge reason Ellen Pompeo has voiced her support to end Grey’s Anatomy. But as the hit ABC medical drama wrapped its 18th season, showrunner Krista Vernoff has opened up about that exact issue, comparing the stories of Cristina Yang and Jo Wilson as an example to illustrate why that’s not an problem for their show going into Season 19.

Nobody’s certain of Grey’s Anatomy’s fate past Season 19. While Ellen Pompeo appears more than ready to leave (her character’s story about not being allowed to leave Seattle has seemed pretty meta), ABC is in no rush to lose its ratings winner. The actress has expressed concern that being on the show too long will result in them using old plotlines, but Krista Vernoff apparently doesn’t see that as a problem, and she explained to Variety how they’re able to keep things fresh:

If we are specific in our character work, and we are, then if we repeat a story, it plays differently. The way Cristina Yang moves through heartbreak is not the same as the way Jo Wilson or Levi Schmitt or Maggie Pierce move through heartbreak. We do a lot of love and longing and heartbreak because it’s a universal language, along with medicine which is also a universal language.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it like that. Grey’s Anatomy fans don’t say, “Jo and Todd are breaking up? They already did this story when Cristina and Owen split.” Hell, Jo’s breakup from Todd was even different from her breakup with Alex (and yes, we are still mad about that). Derek Shepherd getting hit by a semi was completely different from George O’Malley getting hit by a bus. Meredith and Derek had a beach wedding in the same season that Maggie and Winston got married on the beach, and there were definitely not any accusations that those were the same.

The makeups and breakups on Grey’s Anatomy are just as important as the medicine, and that’s something else Krista Vernoff cited as endless fodder for stories on the show:

The great gift of our show is that it’s a medical show and the great gift of medicine and science is that it always evolves and therefore we will always have new stories to tell. Every season we gather in the writers’ room and we spend a few days pitching the medical. Most of it is based on something we read somewhere that actually happened somewhere in the world.

It seems like Krista Vernoff has a lot left in the tank, as well as Chandra Wilson — one of three Grey’s Anatomy OGs, playing Miranda Bailey for all 18 seasons so far — who pushed back during a recent TV appearance when confronted with rumors that Season 19 would be their last. If they really can continue to bring in fresh ideas nearly two decades later, is it possible Grey's Anatomy will continue without Ellen Pompeo? Apparently it’s an idea making its way into conversations.

We’ve got a lot of time to wait and speculate before we can expect any official word from the network, but in the meantime you can rewatch Seasons 1-17 of Grey's Anatomy on streaming with a Netflix subscription. Season 18 is available to Hulu subscribers.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.