Grey's Anatomy Producers Say Appearances from Other Past Stars Is 'Absolutely Possible'
The latest season of Grey’s Anatomy started off with a huge surprise for longtime viewers: Patrick Dempsey reprised his role as the late Derek Shepard, appearing to Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey in a dream.
Though fans may still be reeling from the shock of McDreamy’s appearance, — and that he'll appear in at least three more episodes — the show’s producers say it may not be the last former series regular to turn up in season 17.
“Wonderful and completely surprising things are absolutely possible,” executive producers Andy Reaser and Meg Marinis tell PEOPLE in the latest issue.
And Grey’s Anatomy — the longest-running medical drama in TV history — has no shortage of former characters to choose from, including the four other interns Meredith began her career alongside during season 1 in 2005.
Most recently, Justin Chambers left Grey's in January 2020 to “diversify” his career. In the show, his character, Alex Karev, walked away from wife Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) to start a life with his former love and fellow intern, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl).
Heigl abruptly said goodbye to her character Izzie Stevens in 2010, saying at the time that she wanted to focus on her family. After several big television roles, including the final two seasons of Suits, the actress’ latest project is starring in Netflix’s TV adaptation of the Kristin Hannah novel, Firefly Lane, due out next year.
Meredith’s closest friend on Grey’s, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), left Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital during the season 10 finale in 2014. The character moved to Zurich to focus on her promising career in surgery and has been mentioned several times in the succeeding seasons, usually when Meredith is texting or calling her old friend.
Since leaving the show, Oh has starred on three seasons of BBC America’s Killing Eve.
The first of the five original interns to leave was George O’Malley, played by T.R. Knight. George died in the season 5 finale after sacrificing himself to save a woman from being hit by a bus. Knight headed to Broadway after his time on Grey’s Anatomy, and is now starring in HBO Max's highly anticipated miniseries, The Flight Attendant. He and Pompeo have remained close friends.
Any number of other former favorites could make a comeback, including couple Mark Sloan and Lexi Grey.
Sloane (Eric Dane) and Grey (Chyler Leigh), both tragically died as a result of season 8’s plane crash in 2012, and the couple later became the new namesakes of the hospital featured in the show. Dane has most recently starred as Cal Jacobs in Euphoria, and Leigh has played Alex Danvers in the DC Comics superhero series Supergirl since 2015.
Callie Torres, played by Sara Ramirez, left the show in 2016. Ramirez has since become a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights and later portrayed the bisexual, non-binary role of Kat Sandoval in the CBS drama Madam Secretary.
Grey's Anatomy Showrunner Says Keeping Patrick Dempsey's Surprise Return Secret 'Was an Epic Feat'
Callie’s longtime love interest, Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), departed shortly after to follow her ex to New York, where their daughter Sofia was also living. Capshaw has largely taken a step back from TV acting since she left in 2018, but recently starred in Netflix’s Christmas rom-com, Holidate.
Sarah Drew’s April Kepner — a former love interest for Dr. Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) — exited Grey’s when Capshaw did, after Kepner quit her job at the hospital to "do God's work" and married former flame Matthew (Justin Bruening). Drew — who stars on this season's Hallmark holiday movie Christmas in Vienna and is signed on for Freeform’s upcoming thriller drama series Cruel Summer produced by Jessica Biel — recently addressed whether she would return to the show. "I love my family over there, so I would never say no to the possibility," she told Entertainment Tonight.
Perhaps among the most likely reappearances, however, is Meredith’s late mother, Ellis Grey. Played by Kate Burton, who has since starred as Vice President Sally Langston in Scandal, Ellis died in season 3 but has continued to loom large in Meredith’s life.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.
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