‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Krista Vernoff Shuts Down a Fan Theory About Returning Characters in Season 17

Christmas came early for Grey’s Anatomy fans when the 17th season delivered the most unexpected cameos by Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and George O’Malley (T.R. Knight). Now, some viewers believe other beloved characters will return in the new cycle. But recently, showrunner Krista Vernoff shut down the Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 fan theory. So here’s what she said and what to expect moving forward.

Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans think certain characters will return in season 17

'Grey's Anatomy' Season 17 promo with Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Ellen Pompeo | Mike Rosenthal via Getty Images

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In the Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 premiere, the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial dealt with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Then in the next episode, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) tested positive for COVID-19. She also went into a dream state where she reunited with Derek and George on a beach. 

Meanwhile, Grey’s Anatomy fans theorized others would return after a screenshot from IMDb made its rounds online. According to the post, favorites like Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), and Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) were slated for 2020. So viewers speculated these characters would also reunite with Meredith on the beach. 

Krista Vernoff reacts to the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 fan theory

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Now, Vernoff has debunked the Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 fan theory. In an interview with Variety from December 2020, the showrunner was asked about the viral post, and she quickly shut it down. However, she wished it were true.

“My stepson sent me that picture, and my answer was, ‘Oh my god! I wish!’ But no,” Vernoff said. “That was some glitch on IMDb.”

Of course, Vernoff’s answer may not come as much of a surprise. When speaking with Cosmopolitan in November 2020, Camilla Luddington (who plays Jo Wilson) told fans not to keep their hopes up. 

“I saw that! I got tweeted at over and over,” Luddington said of the IMDb post. “For some reason it says 2020 on, like, everyone who has ever been on the show. I would not get as excited about that as they are. That’s what I’ll say.”

What to expect when ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ comes back in 2021

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While the Grey’s Anatomy team denied the fan theory, it’s still possible other fan-favorites will show up when season 17 comes back in 2021. In the above interview with Variety, Vernoff revealed that she’s still hopeful for more cameos. “We all have hopes,” she said. “But we don’t have anything new to report yet.”

Vernoff also confirmed Derek will be back for more episodes. “You will see McDreamy again in the back half of the season,” she said.

But no matter who comes back — and who doesn’t — it certainly seems the rest of the season will be worth the watch. When speaking with TV Guide in December 2020, Kelly McCreary (who plays Maggie Pierce) teased what fans can expect when Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 returns in 2021. And ultimately, the actor believes the current season is one of the best.

“I’ve said this a couple of times, but I think this is my favorite season of the show,” McCreary said. “I think that the richness with which we are exploring every single one of the characters on the show right now is so fun to watch. That continues, and it continues to be incredibly moving.”

Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 returns to ABC on March 4, 2021.

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