‘Grey’s Anatomy’: George O’ Malley ‘Would Have Stayed’ if He Could Have — Would T. R. Knight Have Stayed?

Grey’s Anatomy saw George O’ Malley (T. R. Knight) return to Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) in the Dec. 3, 2020 episode. O’Malley revealed that he “would have stayed” if he could, as fans wiped away their tears during the old friends’ conversation. Viewers may be wondering would the actor have remained on the show if things were different?

'Grey's Anatomy' stars Kate Walsh, T.R. Knight and Melissa George
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ stars Kate Walsh, T.R. Knight and Melissa George | Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum George O’ Malley returned to Meredith Grey

In Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Meredith is in a coma due to COVID-19. While asleep, she talks with people from her past on a beach. First, her dead husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), shocked viewers with an appearance. Now, George “007” O’ Malley is back and has a heart-to-heart with Meredith about life and death.

Throughout the episode, they discuss how her three children would react to her death. She wants to know if she gets to decide to die or not, and that’s when George breaks fans’ hearts all over again.

“I don’t know,” George responds. “I didn’t. I would have stayed if I could have. It’s different for everyone, though.”

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Meredith Yelling ‘Excuse Me’ in the Preview Gave Away Who Is Returning Next

He admits that he didn’t want to die when he was struck by that bus, saving a woman’s life, all those years ago. George also tells Meredith that his mother still hasn’t gotten over her son dying. He tries to “shake it out of her,” but it doesn’t work. 

“Some grief is heavier than other grief,” he adds. “Sometimes it moves through you, and sometimes it just gets stuck.”

Why did T. R. Knight leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Knight left Grey’s Anatomy in 2009, but the incident that began his departure happened in 2007. Two years before he left, his co-star, Isaiah Washington, who played Preston Burke, allegedly used a homophobic slur to refer to Knight while on set. After the incident, the producers let Washington go from the show. 

When Knight left in 2009, he gave several reasons, including a “breakdown in communication” with Shonda Rhimes. He also mentioned George’s decrease in screen time and Washington’s conflict that forced him to tell the world about his sexuality.

'Grey's Anatomy' stars Chandra Wilson, Isaiah Washington, T. R. Knight, and Patrick Dempsey
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ stars Chandra Wilson, Isaiah Washington, T.R. Knight and Patrick Dempsey | George Pimentel/WireImage

Pompeo speaks about those early years of the show as a challenging time for everyone involved. 

“Nobody should be working 16 hours a day, 10 months a year — nobody,” she told Variety. “And it’s just causing people to be exhausted, pissed, sad, depressed. It’s a really, really unhealthy model.

Would T. R. Knight have stayed if things were different?

When asked if he missed Grey’s Anatomy, Knight told Deadline, “I mean the people, yeah; it’s the people, and it’s George.”

“It was the ending I never expected and couldn’t possibly have expected, in so many ways,” he added about his return to the show. “George is a very complicated person, and that’s what made him such an amazing pleasure to play, but Meredith is seeing the best of George: she’s seeing his humor, his kindness, his generosity, and in this brief moment that you get to see him, it’s such a great way to remember him.”

'Grey's Anatomy' alum T. R. Knight with husband Patrick Leahy
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum T. R. Knight with husband Patrick Leahy | Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

In another interview, Knight admitted that he would not have met his husband if he stayed on the show. 

“Beautiful things come from ugly times,” Knight told the Daily Beast.

He’s happy with the way things turned out, and it sounds like he wouldn’t change a thing.