‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Sara Ramirez Has Zero Regrets About Leaving the Show

Sara Ramirez may not regret leaving Grey’s Anatomy when she did, but there may yet be a chance she could return before the series ends.

Notice we said “chance.” We’re not making any promises here. If NCIS can bring Cote de Pablo back from the “dead,” nothing seems impossible. But nothing is guaranteed either. And even if Ramirez doesn’t come back, somebody else who previously left the show might. 

Where Sara Ramirez stands on a return

Sara Ramirez
Sara Ramirez on Grey’s Anatomy | Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

One reason Ramirez could return is that her prior commitment, Madam Secretary, is off the table. Cinemablend reported that Ramirez will not be coming back as a series regular on that show because the timeline will jump two years for its final 10 episodes. Ramirez could make a guest appearance there too, but that would be all.

That would seemingly open the door to her coming back to Callie. However, Ramirez herself has given mixed signals on that possibility, sometimes in the same interview. In 2017, when EW asked her if she made the right decision in leaving, she said, “Absolutely.” But that didn’t necessarily mean she was saying never. 

“When (creator) Shonda [Rhimes] and I last spoke, we agreed to keep the conversations going, and she knows I’m open to keeping those conversations going,” she said. 

Why Ramirez left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Ramirez, who had been with Grey’s since Season 2, departed at the end of the Season 12 finale. Her character Callie had moved to New York to be with then-girlfriend Penny (Samantha Sloyan). Ramirez and Rhimes made it clear the parting was amicable, unlike some others on the show. 

She said at the time:

“I’m deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey’s Anatomy & ABC but for now I’m taking some welcome time off. Shonda’s been so incredible to work for, and we will definitely continue our conversations! I send my love to Ellen (Pompeo), the rest of the cast & crew, and I look forward to always being a part of the Shondaland family!”

Her departure didn’t shock everyone, given her longevity, but she had been a key component to the appeal of the show. Callie and Arizona, played by Jessica Capshaw, were well-loved by viewers, and their wedding had been one of the first same-sex unions in prime time.

Capshaw herself departed in season 14, making a return by Callie all the more logistically difficult. 

Who else could come back? 

If Ramirez doesn’t work out, there are a few other possibilities. Showrunner Krista Vernoff told TV Line. “I’m trying to get someone back. There’s someone I’m hoping will make an appearance this year, [but] it’s a real maybe. I’m trying.”

That description would seem to apply to Ramirez, but another strong possibility is Kate Walsh’s Addison. She was on the show from 2005 to 2012 and even had her own spinoff in Private Practice. Vernoff has called Season 16 one of family and fun, and Addison could fit either of those. 

On the other hand, “family and fun” would not necessarily apply to Katherine Heigl’s Izzie Stevens. Heigl won an Emmy for her work on the show, but she departed under acrimonious circumstances. Heigl herself has said her return might be distracting, but then again she would qualify as the “real maybe” that Vernoff mentioned.

Heigl is slated to appear in the Netflix series Firefly Lane, with another medical series veteran, Sarah Chalke of Scrubs

Grey’s run has been extended to at least 17 seasons. It’s now the longest-running medical drama of all time, and the third longest-running live-action scripted show that is still airing, after Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS