‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Erica Hahn Was the Most ‘Down to Earth’ Character On the Show

Grey’s Anatomy is set to air a remarkable 16th season in late September. It’s understandable that a show so jam-packed with drama and relationship ups and downs would have fans divided about their allegiances over the show’s long run. Many characters have become fan favorites, and just as many have become viciously hated for their treatment of other characters on the show. 

Characters have come and gone on the show, and fans have to stay on their toes as creator Shonda Rhimes has gained a reputation for mercilessly offing beloved stars without any warning. 

One character that exited the show years ago still holds a special place in some fans’ hearts. Dr. Erica Hahn left the show back in Season 8, but her down-to-earth reaction to some of the craziest plot lines imaginable left a hole that’s been hard to fill. 

Brooke Smith
Brooke Smith on Grey’s Anatomy | Michael Desmond/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Dr. Hahn was originally a minor character

Dr. Hahn, played by actress Brooke Smith, originally appeared in a few episodes of Season 2. Her main purpose was to serve as a foil for her long-time rival, Dr. Preston Burke (played by Isaiah Washington). When she returns in Season 3, it’s with a serious impact. Recurring character George O’Malley asks her for a consult on his father’s heart condition after he notices Dr. Burke’s hand tremor.

Later in the show, Hahn would replace Burke in his role as head of Cardiothoracic Surgery, creating tension between her and other characters. 

Her character was established to be a no-nonsense kind of person who called out sexism and took everything a little more seriously than many of the people around her. 

Hahn’s relationship was groundbreaking 

One of the things that Dr. Hahn is best known for is her relationship with Callie Torres (played by Sarah Ramirez). The pair started out as friends but eventually developed a romantic relationship, making it the first established lesbian relationship on the show.

When Hahn was abruptly removed from the series shortly after the relationship plotline developed, many were upset and accused the show creators of getting rid of the character because of her sexuality. 

The actress who played Hahn, Brooke Smith, expressed frustration over not getting to fully explore her character’s development.

“I was very excited when they told me that Erica and Callie were going to have this relationship. And I really hoped we were going to show what happens when two women fall in love and that they were going to treat it like any heterosexual couple on TV,” Smith explained. “And so I was surprised and disappointed when they just suddenly told me that they couldn’t write for my character any more.”

For her part, Rhimes said that sexuality had nothing to do with the decision to remove Dr. Hahn from the hospital. The character simply did not have “the magic and chemistry” she was seeking. 

The down-to-earth attitude stuck with fans 

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While it’s been many years since Dr. Hahn worked her last shift at Seattle Grace, fans still miss her. They especially miss her realistic reactions in an otherwise absurd world. Fans point out that she acted as a successful foil to many of the overly-emotional characters around her. One plot line in particular that got their attention was when Dr. Hahn reacted to Izzie’s unethical medical treatment of Denny. While many saw Izzie’s reckless behavior as romantic, Dr. Hahn was less forgiving.

In her very final appearance on the show, she calls out Izzie for her role in keeping a donor heart from a transplant patient and won’t let Izzie back out of treating the patient: “You’re going to be there to see him through, to look him in the eye to help him through the pain you have caused him. And if he dies, I want you there for that too because you’re responsible.”

While the showrunners ultimately decided Dr. Hahn didn’t have the chemistry necessary to fit in with the rest of the characters, many fans remember and miss her sharp-witted ability to tell it like it is.