Shonda Rhimes says Sara Ramirez’s exit from Grey’s Anatomy “wasn’t a big, planned thing.”
Ramirez and Rhimes announced after Thursday’s season 12 finale that the actress was leaving the show after playing Dr. Callie Torres for 10 seasons.
Speaking Sunday at Vulture Festival in New York City, Rhimes addressed the 40-year-old actress’ decision to walk away from Grey’s Anatomy, saying she found out about Ramirez’s plans to depart a mere three days prior to the public announcement.
“This one was different because it wasn’t a big, planned thing,” Rhimes said. “I had a different plan going, and when Sara came in and said, ‘I really need to take this break,’ I was lucky that we’d shot the end of the season with her going to New York.”
Still, Rhimes assured there are no hard feelings. “I feel really good about the fact that she said that she wanted to take this break… I love the woman and I want everything for her. It all worked out in that sense, but I don’t like to see anybody go,” she said. “I find it fascinating that people are shocked that people are exiting. Most shows go for four seasons… we’re heading into season 13.”
On Thursday, Ramirez released a statement about her departure from the hit show, saying, “I’m deeply grateful to have spent the last 10 years with my family at Grey’s Anatomy and 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, Grey’s star], the rest of the cast and crew, and I look forward to always being a part of the Shondaland family!”
On Sunday, Rhimes said she understands the grueling schedule an actor faces while filming a major network drama, especially one like Grey’s Anatomy, which has shot anywhere between 17 and 27 episodes per season since its nine-episode freshman run in 2005.
“You grow and you change and you do a lot of things, but after a while you start to itch to do something new or you itch to take a break, and it’s not like they’re going to starve if they take a break. They’ve earned it,” Rhimes said. “You have two months off, so it’s not easy to get something else. I don’t think Ellen has done a single movie or anything since she’s started Grey’s.”
The 46-year-old showrunner also discussed previous Grey’s exits, including Sandra Oh, who left after season 10.
“I think Sandra did [Grey’s] for 10 seasons, and then was ready to go,” she said. “I kept waiting; season 6, season 7, season 8… I’d be like, ‘Sandra, are you good?’ because I know what that is for an actor.”
Ramirez is the third major cast member to leave Grey’s Anatomy in as many seasons, following Oh and star Patrick Dempsey, whose character was killed off last year. Rhimes suggested there’s one actor whose departure would change her involvement with the show. “I’m always constantly amazed when Ellen’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to re-up,’” she said of Pompeo. “That’s always amazing to me. Our pact with each other is that we will go together. When she goes, I go.”
Reporting by Nick Maslow