‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Meredith Will Be Offscreen for Most of Season 19

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith in 'Grey's Anatomy'
ABC/Liliane Lathan

Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 ended in such a way that it seemed like Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) would once again be the active face of Grey Sloan — as in present there full-time — but instead, over the summer, it was announced that she would only be in eight episodes. With Meredith (interim) chief, after Bailey (Chandra Wilson) quit, it’s not like she can just be offscreen the rest of the time.

“When you’ve got a woman who has a job that she loves, a career that she loves, a man that she loves, what is the thing that might take her out of the main storytelling? And my answer to that is: her kids,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told Variety. “Something happens with her kids that changes the course of her plans for her life.”

Will that also take her out of Seattle? Her house has become such a fixture on the show that it’s hard to imagine it not being part of the majority of the season.

Pompeo’s limited role in Grey’s Season 19 comes as she’s working on a new series for Hulu as its star and executive producer. Still, she will be providing the voiceover for every episode of the ABC medical drama’s season, even though she won’t be seen in all of them.

Previews for the season do show Meredith at Grey Sloan, welcoming the new interns (played by Alexis Floyd, Niko Terho, Midori Francis, Adelaide Kane, and Harry Shum Jr.) to Grey Sloan. “Congratulations. You did it. You’re here. You will save lives with this equipment and you will end them,” she tells them. “We’re all getting a second chance here today. We have to prove the doubters wrong.”

That’s because the hospital’s residency program was shut down at the end of Season 18, after an attempt to change what they needed to, and the residents then all packed up their lockers. Schmitt (Jake Borelli) is now going to be chief resident, but for Helm (Jaicy Elliot), it’s “a longer journey back,” Vernoff told TV Insider.

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 19 Premiere, Thursday, October 6, 9/8c, ABC