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Why Grey's Anatomy Star Ellen Pompeo Can't Say Very Much About Kate Walsh's Return As Addison

Meredith and Addison look at a patient.
(Image credit: ABC)

Grey’s Anatomy returned to ABC with the premiere of its 18th season, setting up new character arcs in more ways than one for our Seattle surgeons. We witnessed the return of Owen’s sister Megan, met Ellis Grey’s associate David Hamilton and were shocked by the return of an unexpected so-and-so from Meredith’s past. But one such returning character was noticeably absent — Addison Montgomery. A lot has been said about Kate Walsh returning to reprise her character on the ABC medical drama, but Ellen Pompeo and company haven’t divulged many details about why Addison is returning to Seattle, and there may be a reason for that.

When Kate Walsh announced the Season 18 return of Addison Montgomery to the halls of Grey-Sloan Memorial, there was no mention of the circumstances, or when she’d show up, or for how many episodes. In fact, even Ellen Pompeo, who spoke to People ahead of Grey’s Anatomy’s season premiere, said even she doesn’t know what’s in store for Meredith and her late husband’s ex-wife.

The writers are trying to figure it out, and I try not to pressure them. So it's a huge job they have. And that's really all I can say about it. So everyone just has to tune in!

It sounds like Ellen Pompeo wants to know as bad as the rest of us, even if she isn't using her executive producer status to force some answers out of the writers. Is it possible that, following the success of last season’s appearances — which resurrected fan-favorite characters who had passed on to appear on Meredith’s COVID-hallucinated beachGrey’s Anatomy wanted to bring back more fan favorites like Addison, even without fully formed and narratively necessary reasons to do so? I mean, it wouldn't be the biggest shocker. 

Kate Walsh expressed interest in coming back to Grey's Anatomy in the past, and fans love her, so you won’t hear any complaints from me regardless of how pre-planned anything is. But it sounds like all the secrecy surrounding Addison’s revival might very well tie into her story not having a concrete direction yet, as far as what the actors are aware of.

Addison’s return creates a great opportunity for Jo Wilson to get some top-notch training in her new specialty. In Season 17 Jo switched from general surgery to obstetrics and gynecology, and Addison is a neonatal goddess. But, similar to Ellen Pompeo, Camilla Luddington didn't speak much to Jo’s upcoming story in regards to Addison. Luddington previously said that Addison would be working on "a really amazing case" and Jo undoubtedly would want to be a part of it.

It's hard to say if Camilla Luddington is just keeping secrets — or Ellen Pompeo for that matter — or if she doesn't know, but that’s really about as non-specific as a person could get. If one of the country’s top neonatal surgeons is coming to town, I think “really amazing case” is probably the jumping-off point to something more invovled.

Well, fellow Grey’s Anatomy fans, feel free to join me in some deep breathing as I search for the patience to continue waiting for Addison. Grey’s Anatomy returns at 9 p.m. ET October 7 on ABC. Be sure to check out our 2021 Fall TV Schedule to stay up to date on all of the upcoming premieres.

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.