Chandra Wilson to Departed ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Co-Stars: ‘Being a Series Regular Isn’t for Everybody’

So many characters have come and gone from Grey’s Anatomy that in a way, the show is like the classic children’s game Operation, where the object was to remove tiny body parts without hitting the sides. If you did the game would buzz and the patient’s nose would flash red. 

Quite a number of people have left with a loud buzz, while others have left more quietly if no less sadly. And still a handful of others have remained with the show for all of its 15 seasons, including Chandra Wilson, who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey.

She says as sad as some departures are, sometimes they can be a blessing in disguise. 

Actors who controversially left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ 

Chandra Wilson
Chandra Wilson on Grey’s Anatomy | Jennifer Clasen/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

A show as long in the tooth as Grey’s can’t help but be a revolving door of players, but many times, that revolving door has been fast and dizzying. Grey’s is almost as known for its stormy departures as it is for its longevity. Digital Spy rounded them up

One of the most controversial was that of Isaiah Washington, who got axed in Season 3 after he made homophobic slurs on and off set, although he did return briefly in Season 10 when Sandra Oh left.

Katherine Heigl won an Emmy for playing Izzie Stevens but left after Season 6 when she withdrew from the Emmys, claiming her parts weren’t up to scratch.

Patrick Dempsey’s McDreamy was killed off in Season 11, with rumors the actor had been fired. 

Other times the actors don’t necessarily leave by choice, as was the case with Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw, who both departed at the end of Season 14.

Drew in particular seemed taken aback. Fans angrily blamed series lead Ellen Pompeo because they thought her large salary squeezed out Drew and Capshaw. Pompeo adamantly denied having anything to do with their leaving. 

Actors who left with less fanfare

Not every departure has been quite so dramatic offscreen.  Kate Walsh got her own spinoff with Private Practice and even returned to Grey’s when Practice ended.

Chyler Leigh, who played Lexie Grey, was killed off in Season 8. Still, it was Leigh’s decision to go. “I met with Shonda (Rimes) and we worked together to give Lexie’s story appropriate closure,” she recalled. 

Eric Dane left with Leigh, because their characters were in the same plane crash. Kim Raver also left after Season 8, but only because her contract was up and she decided not to renew. Raver returned in Season 14.

Sandra Oh also left voluntarily, as did Sara Ramirez, who has hinted she might return. 

This article doesn’t include every departure, but we can name all the major players who have been there for the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy. Besides Wilson and of course Pompeo, the other two mainstays are Justin Chambers’ Alex Karev and James Pickens Jr.’s Richard Webber. 

Why Wilson will stay

Grey’s Anatomy still has a pulse, with the show having been renewed for two seasons. Wilson plans to stay for the duration. 

“I really want to see it through,” she told Bustle last year. “I’ll get into other opportunities and other characters and whatever else comes after this, but I’m enjoying being in the now and being in this right now.” 

Wilson has watched the departures, seeing all  sides of the experience. Some actors like herself are comfortable staying in one place for years, while it’s better for others to move on. The sad reality of TV is that there will always be actors who will go before they’re ready. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the end of their careers. 

“It takes a different kind of stamina, it takes a different will, it takes a different kind of commitment to play the same character for a long period of time. And that’s not always a good fit for everybody. It sounds good when you do the pilot and when you sign your contract, but there’s no right or wrong to it,” she said.