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Jesse Williams Reacts To Grey's Anatomy Star Ellen Pompeo's Big Season 19 Changes, And Hints At Japril's Future

jesse williams as jackson on grey's anatomy
(Image credit: ABC)

When it was revealed that conversations were being had about whether or not Grey’s Anatomy could outlive Meredith Grey, former star Jesse Williams seemed to think that scenario was “unlikely.” However, now that Ellen Pompeo has officially announced she’ll only appear in a limited role in the upcoming 19th season, the Tony Award nominee had only complimentary things to say about the hard work Pompeo has put in. As well, he shared his excitement-worthy thoughts on whether fans will see more appearances from beloved couple Jackson Avery and April Kepner (Sarah Drew) on the ABC medical drama.

It may have been hard for Jesse Williams to comprehend what Grey’s Anatomy would look like without “the heart of the show” Ellen Pompeo, but he was quick to celebrate  all the hard work she’s put in as the leading actress since 2005 and producer since Season 14. He told Extra:

That woman has worked so hard all year, every year, for the last 20 years building that franchise globally. Any time off she gets is well-earned, and I’m sure they have something creative up their sleeves.

No argument there! Ellen Pompeo has certainly paid her dues for 18 seasons and deserves to make whatever moves best serve her future. Though I doubt she would use the words "time off" to describe starring in and executive producing the untitled Hulu drama that she'll be working on during her Grey's absence. 

As for whether or not Ellen Pompeo's decreased presence creates more space for Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew to return again — as they did to confirm a Japril romance in the Season 18 finale — Jesse Williams claimed to have had “no idea,” but he said: 

I think it’s possible.

Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew have always kept the door open to return to their Grey’s Anatomy characters in some capacity. A Jackson Avery/April Kepner spinoff has been in demand for years, and Drew actually had some fun ideas for how a Japril spinoff would work. Even though the actor couldn’t speak for what (if anything) is in store for Season 19, we can be satisfied that the opportunity remains.

It was previously announced that Ellen Pompeo would appear in only eight episodes of Grey’s Anatomy this season, as she has signed on to star in and executive produce an upcoming limited series for Hulu inspired by a bizarre 2019 news story. The case that inspired the story involved Kristine Barnett, whom Ellen Pompeo will protray, 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. In a twist that sounds like it came straight from the cult horror Orphan, the Barnetts claimed Natalia was actually a mentally disturbed adult with a rare form of dwarfism who was conning them. I’m certainly intrigued.

Jesse Williams wasn’t the only Grey’s Anatomy co-star to voice support for Ellen Pompeo amid her exciting new venture. Kevin McKidd said the fact that she’s still making time for Grey’s Anatomy, rather than just focusing on her new gig, proves how much the show still means to her. McKidd told E!’s Daily Pop

Ellen has been the captain of this ship all these years, and she's about to start producing, so she needed to make room in her schedule for that. The fact that she's not leaving the show and is just gonna scale it back a bit, what I think is beautiful about it is that it shows her love for the show still.

It will be fun to see how it all goes down in Season 19, and which familiar faces might return to grace our screens. We’re still some weeks away, though, as Grey’s Anatomy returns to ABC at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, October 6. Be sure to keep up with all of the upcoming premieres with our 2022 TV Schedule.

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.