Jesse Williams Leaving ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Fans and Co-Stars React

Jesse Williams in Grey's Anatomy
ABC/Richard Cartwright

Fans and stars alike are reacting to the dramatic news that Dr. Jackson Avery is hanging up his scrubs and leaving Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

Jesse Williams will exit Grey’s Anatomy in two weeks, following the show’s “throwback” special May 13.

The actor joined the ABC medical drama as a recurring character back in season 6 before being promoted to series regular the following year. He is the second main cast member to leave the show in the space of weeks, following Giacomo Gianniotti, whose character Dr. Andrew DeLuca was killed off in March.

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As one doc makes a reprise appearance on the show, another doc charts a course out of Seattle.

“I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda [Rhimes], the network, studio, fellow castmates, our incredible crew, Krista [Vernoff], Ellen [Pompeo], and Debbie [Allen],” Williams said in a statement to Deadline. “As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds.”

He continued: “The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I’ll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact, and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies, and dear friends.”

Williams’ Dr. Avery started his farewell tour in Thursday’s episode, as he reunited with former love interest April (Sarah Drew, who made a surprise return to the show) and decided to take over his family’s foundation to help tackle inequalities in medicine. This would mean moving to Boston and he wants April and her family to join him so that he can still support their daughter, Harriet.

“Jesse Williams is an extraordinary artist and activist,” said Grey’s showrunner Vernoff. “Watching his evolution these past 11 years both on screen and off has been a true gift. Jesse brings so much heart, such depth of care, and so much intelligence to his work. We will miss Jesse terribly and we will miss Jackson Avery — played to perfection for so many years.”

Fans, co-stars including Ellen Pompeo and Sarah Drew, and Williams himself have been sharing their reactions to the star’s impending departure, which you can read below.

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC