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Ellen Pompeo Expands ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Role in More Episodes for Season 21

EXCLUSIVE : Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey received a memorable sendoff in the 2023 midseason premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Despite her reduced on-screen time, Pompeo maintained top billing in the opening credits and never lost her series regular status since she continued as the show’s narrator. Now, it seems the title star of the ABC medical drama might return for a significant number of episodes typically expected of a series regular.

Pompeo is poised to appear in at least seven of Season 21’s 18 episodes, according to sources. That number might increase to as high as 14 episodes. If her episode count enters double digits, it will closely match the workload of other veteran Grey’s Anatomy series regulars, who will each miss a couple of episodes next season as a cost-cutting measure. Representatives for ABC, Grey’s Anatomy producers ABC Signature, and Shondaland declined to comment.

After her Season 19 “exit” episode, Pompeo returned in the season finale. During Season 20, she appeared in half of the ten episodes, including playing a significant role in the season’s premiere and finale. Apart from acting, Pompeo remained as an executive producer and continued her voiceover work which frames every episode—a role that she will maintain next season as well.

“She’s always a huge part of the show; we have an open door policy with her. When she is able to be here, we welcome her with open arms,” Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Meg Marinis told Deadline in March. “She’s constantly in my head, her voice.”

Marinis also noted a “great relationship” with Pompeo, which had fueled speculation last year that she might consider returning full-time after Marinis took over as showrunner ahead of Season 20.

Pompeo’s reduced on-screen role stemmed from wanting to pursue other projects, starting with the Hulu limited series Natalia (formerly Orphan), based on the Natalia Grace story. She starred in and executive produced the series through her company Calamity Jane. Last season, Pompeo was juggling both Natalia and Grey’s Anatomy, which are both produced by ABC Signature. That won’t be an issue anymore as Natalia is set to wrap up ahead of Season 21’s production start for Grey’s Anatomy.

Regardless of her on-screen presence over the past year and a half, Pompeo’s continued top billing on Grey’s Anatomy underscores the fact that her character Meredith remains the heart of the show.

“We have to let her go and do some other things, but she’s still our queen. She’s still our number one,” said Grey’s executive producer, director, and recurring guest star Debbie Allen about Pompeo in December.

Looking ahead to next season, Meredith’s career is at a crossroads. She defied her boss, the head of the Catherine Fox Foundation (Allen), by refusing to abandon her controversial Alzheimer’s research and hand over all her notes to Koracick. Instead, Meredith published an abstract online.

On a brighter note, Meredith’s relationship with Nick (Scott Speedman) received a major boost in the finale. He flew in from Boston to profess his love, and she revealed that she had put an offer on a house he had found for them, indicating a significant step forward in their relationship and plans to move in together with Ellen’s kids.

Source: Deadline