Season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy will arrive at the end of the month, but longtime fans of the series want to know if this is the beginning of the end. During a red carpet interview with Entertainment Tonight at the 2021 Emmys on Sunday, Sept. 19, star Ellen Pompeo addressed fan theories that this might be the hit medical drama’s final season. “They’re not far off,” the 51-year-old actor said. “I mean, I’ve been trying to get away for years. I have been trying.”
Pompeo went on to say that although she wanted to exit the series a long time ago, “strong relationships” with the network are the main reason she stuck around. “They have been very, very good to me, and have incentivized me to stay,” she said. Pompeo also told ET that, “creatively, as long as there’s something to do,” there will always be a reason for ABC to keep the show going. “Miraculously, we keep coming up with ways to have a reason to stay and if there’s a reason, that warrants it,” she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided much of the inspiration for Season 17. In the premiere episode, Meredith Grey (Pompeo) contracted the virus and collapsed in the parking lot of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Then, in some intense dreams caused by the virus, Derek Shepherd (aka, McDreamy) appeared for the first time since 2015. Fans of the show were critical of the decision to address coronavirus while the pandemic was still happening in real life, but Pompeo and showrunner Krista Vernoff saw value in incorporating it into the show’s plot.
“We had to work around COVID obviously and so we had to be creative and think of ways to keep the show going and still be safe,” Pompeo told ET. “The coma was one and then the beach and the dream sequences was another and of course, bringing back people who had passed on to the other side. I think it just resonates with people right? Everyone wants to have one last conversation with someone they’ve lost.” In November, Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter that their main goal was to honor the doctors and nurses on the front line of the pandemic and encourage people to follow COVID-19 safety protocol.
Now that Season 17 is behind us, Pompeo is looking forward to what’s to come when Season 18 premieres on Sept. 30. “Kate [Walsh] is amazing,” she told ET, referring to the return of Walsh’s character, Addison Montgomery. “That’s one of my favorite things about the show right now is having original cast members come back. It’s so fun and so nostalgic and we all have such an incredible bond that’s kind of hard to describe and it’s been a lot of fun having everybody come back.”
Although Pompeo is looking forward to Season 18, she’s not yet ready to think about whether another season is in the cards. “Oh please! Oh my goodness, can we pray together?” she pleaded. And when asked if she knew anything about the future of the show, she declined to answer. “I’m not really supposed to say anything about it,” Pompeo said. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to people I’ve promised things to.”
Whether Grey’s Anatomy returns after Season 18 or not, Pompeo is ready to move on. During a July episode of the Ladies First With Laura Brown podcast, she said that her acting career has run its course. “I’m not saying I’ll never act again, I very well may, but I’m not super excited about continuing my acting career,” Pompeo admitted. “I’m more entrepreneurial at this stage. I’m excited about investing in businesses, and starting a business. That’s an area of growth that I’m excited about, using my brain in a different way. The acting I feel like, even though I haven’t done a million different roles, I feel like I’ve done it.”