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Would Grey’s Anatomy Work Without Ellen Pompeo? Another Former Star Weighs In

Eric Dane as Mark Sloan on Grey's Anatomy.
(Image credit: Netflix)

Grey’s Anatomy will return to ABC this fall for its 19th season, and while viewers are really anxious to see how Grey Sloan Memorial will survive the mass exodus that was the Season 18 finale, our eyes are also on the future, as we continue wondering how long the medical drama will continue. That situation is complicated by the fact that series star Ellen Pompeo is ready to leave the show, and has had conversations about if and how Grey’s Anatomy could continue without her. Former series regular Jesse Williams shared his opinion on a Meredith Grey-less Grey’s, and now another previous cast member has McWeighed in: Eric Dane.

The general consensus amongst the current powers that be points to Grey’s Anatomy having a potentially long life ahead of it, while ABC bosses have indicated they’ll take as much as they can get. Showrunner Krista Vernoff doesn’t share Ellen Pompeo’s concerns about recycling storylines, which is one of the reasons why the Meredith Grey actress has said she’s trying to convince them to end it. Eric Dane, who played Mark Sloan (a.k.a. McSteamy) in the earlier seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, appeared on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM show and shared his take on whether the show could survive without its namesake surgeon. In Dane’s words:

I don’t know. That’s a good question. You know, is it the show that’s the star, or is it Ellen that’s the star of the show? And I don’t know. I think at this point, I think it could live without her, but I think it would be short-lived.

Eric Dane joined Grey’s Anatomy in Season 2, with his beloved McSteamy being killed off in the Season 9 premiere, and the actor definitely gives us something to think about. Do we need a character named Grey in order to have a show called Grey’s Anatomy? Is it more of an ensemble series at this point, or is Ellen Pompeo still the necessary guiding star? He seems to think the answer is a bit of both, though in predicting that the show without Meredith wouldn’t last very long, he seems to be putting more worth on the star and EP herself.

Jesse Williams shared that sentiment when asked the same question recently. The actor called Ellen Pompeo the heart of the show, echoing the thoughts of his character Jackson Avery, who told Meredith in his guest appearance on the Season 18 finale that she couldn’t leave Seattle because her name was on the hospital.

If you think that sounds a little meta, you’re not wrong. Meredith’s whole storyline about wanting to leave Seattle to do new things felt very much like Ellen Pompeo begging to leave the show. At the end of Season 18, Meredith found herself stuck in Seattle, taking the keys to the Chief of Surgery office, resigned to fulfill her birthright. We know we’ve got Pompeo for one more season, but how many more seasons after that? How long will Grey’s Anatomy survive if and when she does leave?  

Only time will tell, and until it does, we’ll just continue looking forward to that Season 19 premiere. Grey’s is set to return at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, October 6, following Station 19. The first 18 seasons are available for streaming with a Netflix subscription, and check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see when all your other shows are premiering.

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.