‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Ellen Pompeo Thinks She’s Been Playing Meredith Grey ‘for Too Long’

Grey’s Anatomy is currently working its way through season 18, and the ABC medical drama shows no signs of slowing down. The long-running series premiered back in 2005, and although many of its original cast members have departed, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) remains a central focus of the happenings at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. In fact, the series probably won’t end until Pompeo decides she’s done playing the character. And the actor recently had a revelation that she’s been working on Grey’s Anatomy for quite a long time — perhaps “too long.”

Ellen Pompeo debuted as Meredith Grey in 2005

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy.' She's wearing blue scrubs and her arms are crossed.
Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Scott Garfield/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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Pompeo debuted as Grey’s Anatomy‘s Meredith Grey during the show’s first season, which premiered all the way back in 2005. Meredith always played a central part in the series, and she’s been one of the few OG cast members to stick around all the way through. Pompeo’s character has been through family tragedies, insurance fraud, and even COVID-19. That’s not to mention several romances that kept fans returning week after week.

And as Meredith continued to grow, Pompeo’s role behind the scenes did as well. She now serves as a producer for Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff Station 19. She’s also directed a couple of episodes of the main show.

Needless to say, much of Pompeo’s acting career has been defined by the ABC series. That explains her revelation that she’s been doing this for a longer time than she realized.

Why the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star thinks she’s been playing Meredith Grey ‘for too long’

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With Pompeo being one of the original cast members on Grey’s Anatomy, she’s been portraying Meredith Grey for a long time. Of course, it probably doesn’t feel like that from day to day. But an instance of brainstorming led Pompeo to acknowledge the length of her tenure on the show.

On her new podcast, Tell Me, the Grey’s star recounted a time she pitched an idea for a scene — and discovered she’d already shot something similar more than 15 years earlier:

“Anyway, my phone was on me when I pitched this scene of me walking on the woods, and then sure enough, three hours later, this image pops up on my phone of me walking through the woods with another character, and I didn’t remember that scene at all! I texted the writer, and I said, ‘How is it now 16 years, 17 years later, I’m pitching ideas for scenes that I’ve already shot that I have no memory of?’ And I said, ‘Is that a memory that I didn’t remember I had? And I’m rehashing ideas?’ So it was really kind of wild.”

That’s a jarring revelation, and it’s no wonder it left Pompeo reeling.

“And then I said, you know, this tells me something,” she added. “I don’t know what it tells me. But it tells me something. That I’ve been doing something for too long, I suppose.”

Will Ellen Pompeo exit ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ soon?

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Although Pompeo has been playing Meredith Grey for longer than most actors stay in their roles, there’s no word on when Grey’s Anatomy might come to an end. According to series creator Shonda Rhimes, the medical drama will conclude whenever Pompeo decides she’s had enough. But despite comments about playing the character for too long or her recent sentiment that she might retire from acting, the actor has yet to make that call.

With Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 already underway, it seems unlikely the show will conclude with this outing — though not impossible. The end of the season could bring updates about how much longer the actors plan to stick with it, but it seems there’d be more fanfare if this was the last hurrah.

That means we could very well see a Grey’s Anatomy Season 19 — and more fresh storylines for Meredith Grey.