The prognosis seems good for fans riddled with worry over when Ellen Pompeo is leaving Grey's Anatomy. “I keep saying, ‘I’m ready to move on and I want to stop the show before the ratings go down,’ but the ratings never go down!” Pompeo told TVLine in an interview published on Wednesday, Jan. 16. “They go down a little bit, but the fact that we are able to hold our [title as ABC’s No. 1 series] is kind of [incredible]. It’s very cool to have these kind of ratings and be on a hit network show in this [Peak TV] landscape.”
That's not to say there isn't still some, well, gray area, as to what the future holds, however. “I’m contracted through Season 16,” added the actor who's currently in her 15th season playing Dr. Meredith Grey on the ABC medical drama. “And beyond that… I don’t really know. I take it day-by-day.”
Just last January, Pompeo revealed to The Hollywood Reporter she had negotiated a $20 million a year deal to remain on Grey's at least through the 2019-2020 TV season. Under the terms of Pompeo's contract, aside from earning $575,000 per episode, she also received a seven-figure signing bonus and another estimate $6 million to $7 million in equity, per THR.
Fans first got a hint that Pompeo might leave Grey's after Season 16 based on a September interview she gave to Entertainment Weekly in which she revealed: “I’m clearly not prepared right now to make any formal announcement about what my future is on the show, but I am really feeling like we have told the majority of the stories that we can tell. It’s about time that I mix it up. I’m definitely looking for a change.”
After all, there's plenty for her to mull over, including the convenience of filming close to her three children with husband Chris Ivery. "As much as the idea of something new appeals to me… I don’t really want to travel and leave [them]," she told TVLine. "I don’t want to be a circus traveller and live in hotels. And the network and studio continue to incentivize me and just make me offers that I can’t refuse.”
In the end, however, the decision may not ultimately be hers. “Obviously I never anticipated the show still being the No. 1 show on the network,” Pompeo said in another new interview with People. “How do you walk away from a hit? The fans will dictate when the show ends. As much as we think we’re in control, we’re not. It’s the fans’ show at this point. They control how long the show goes. We’ll see."
In the meantime, ABC ordered three additional episodes of Grey's for this season (bringing it up to 25 total), and fans were quick to hypothesize that this spelled tragedy in some form. Showrunner Krista Vernoff put those fears at ease, however.
“It makes me laugh that people think, ‘Oh Krista wanted to add extra episodes so she could kill somebody,” she also told People. “The extra episodes are because the ABC schedule allowed for extra episodes and because our numbers are so strong across all platforms. We just have a lot of stories we want to tell this season.”
Grey's fans will definitely be tuned in for all of those and more as the show continues to bring all the big #TGIT thrills and feels.