Why Did Chyler Leigh Leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Lexie Grey?

Grey’s Anatomy fans broke when the plane crash episode claimed the life of Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh). The character was beloved and no one wanted to say goodbye at the time. So why did Leigh leave Grey’s Anatomy after five years of playing Lexie? Here’s what happened and what the actor is up to now.

What happened to Lexie Grey ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

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When Grey’s Anatomy introduced Lexie as Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) half-sister, fans didn’t realize how much of an impact the character would have. Leigh’s on-screen alter ego quickly went from “Lexipedia” to a piece of the Grey’s family. And then there was her romance with Mark Sloan (Eric Dane).

Lexie and Mark had a whirlwind romance, to say the least. Viewers could see sparks every time the couple got together. But Slexie had an on-again, off-again relationship and never seemed to be on the same page. That is, until the very end. 

In the Grey’s Anatomy Season 8 finale — titled “Flight” — Lexie, Mark, Meredith, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) got in a plane crash. Lexie was trapped under a piece of the aircraft. She spent her final moments with Mark before passing. 

Chyler Leigh’s statement when she left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

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In a statement to TVLine from June 2012, Leigh revealed it was her decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy after the eighth season. The actor also thanked the team for her experience on the show.

“Earlier this year, I made the decision that Season eight would be my last on Grey’s Anatomy,” Leigh said in the statement. “I met with [creator Shonda Rhimes] and we worked together to give Lexie’s story appropriate closure. I am very lucky to have worked with this amazing cast and crew for five seasons. My experience on Grey’s Anatomy is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

Then Leigh concluded her statement by bidding farewell to the Grey’s Anatomy fans who have supported her through her journey. 

“I want to take this time to say thank you to the fans,” she said. “Your unconditional love and support have made these last five years very special for me. I look forward to my next chapter and I hope you will continue to follow me on my journey.”

Shonda Rhimes and Chyler Leigh discuss Lexie’s death on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Chyler Leigh as Lexie Grey on GREY S ANATOMY
Chyler Leigh as Lexie Grey on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Scott Garfield/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

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A few months after Leigh left Lexie behind on Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes opened up about killing off the character in a Shondaland blog. The show creator revealed Lexie’s death still haunted her, as she adored Little Grey. Rhimes also explained why Lexie died in a such a tragic way.

“It was important to me that her exit would have maximum impact,” Rhimes wrote, per TVLine. “The plane was going to crash no matter what. I honestly wasn’t sure, because of contract negotiations, who was going to die in that crash. In my early finale plans, once I knew Chyler was leaving the show, Lexie wasn’t originally even on the plane.”

Chyler Leigh and Eric Dane as Lexie Grey and Mark Sloan on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" - Season Eight
Chyler Leigh and Eric Dane as Lexie Grey and Mark Sloan on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Karen Neal/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Rhimes then revealed Lexie was originally supposed to die at Seattle Grace “by doing something as simple as slipping and hitting her head.” However, Rhimes wanted Lexie and Mark to be together.

“She would have died without Mark at her side. Without the chance to say goodbye to him. Without the chance to hear that he loved her,” she said. “I wanted them together when she left us.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly published in February 2017, Leigh shared how she really felt about Mark and Lexie’s ending. She said:

I felt like they did justice to the story in the way that it ended. It was that — not Romeo & Juliet — but it was that heartbreak and that moment of surrender, I guess, in letting Lexie die. I mean, I cried for hours after we had finished filming, just letting it go. It’s letting go a part of yourself, but I think it was handled really well. I thought it was a beautiful way to go. If you’re going to die, die under a fuselage of a plane! Why not, right?

What is Chyler Leigh doing now?

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When Leigh left Grey’s Anatomy in 2012, the actor moved on to other projects such as Taxi Brooklyn. She also appeared in The Hallmark Channel’s Window Wonderland. Then in 2015, Leigh landed the role of Alex Danvers on The CW’s Supergirl. She is still playing the character as the Arrowverse series continues into season 6.

Now, it seems Leigh has closed the door on Lexie and Grey’s Anatomy. And in the above interview with Entertainment Weekly, Leigh admitted she hasn’t watched the Shondaland series since Lexie’s final episode.

“I have not seen it since I died,” Leigh said. “I’m so grateful for that time. But afterward, it was like letting it go. I never really watch shows anyway. I don’t really have much time for TV. I watch Supergirl and I love it, it’s amazing. That’s where I am now in my life. So that is what I’m investing my time in.”

She added, “After leaving Grey’s, I left Grey’s, like let it go.”

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