How 13 Actors Returned to TV After Abrupt Shondaland Exits

Okieriete Onaodowan
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Fans of the TV shows Shonda Rhimes has created—Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal—and the ones she has produced, including How to Get Away With Murder and Station 19, know not to get too attached to a character. As Shondaland actors decide to leave—or as they are asked to leave—their characters die, disappear, or just drop from the narrative. (And yes, this gallery will have spoilers for already-aired episodes.)

The good news, however, is that Shondaland shows can be springboards for acting careers, so it’s usually not long before we see those actors in other TV projects.

Okieriete Onaodowan, for example, just joined the upcoming season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, according to Deadline. That news comes less than two weeks after the onscreen death of Onaodowan’s Station 19 character, firefighter Dean Miller.

Here’s how other Shondaland alums got back on our TV screens…

Henry Ian Cusick, The 100
Cate Cameron/The CW/courtesy Everett Collection

Henry Ian Cusick

Shondaland role: Cusick played litigator Stephen Finch on Scandal until the character was written out between the show’s first and second seasons.

TV return: He starred in six seasons of The CW’s sci-fi drama The 100, playing Ark council member Marcus Kane.

Tim Daly, Madam Secretary
CBS/courtesy Everett Collection

Tim Daly

Shondaland role: Daly starred as physician Pete Wilder for the first six seasons of Private Practice before budget cuts forced him out in 2012.

TV return: The actor starred as First Gentleman Henry McCord in the CBS political drama Madam Secretary.

Eric Dane, The Last Ship
Richard Foreman Jr. /TNT/courtesy Everett Collection

Eric Dane

Shondaland role: Dane played Dr. Mark Sloan across eight seasons of Grey’s Anatomy until the character died at the start of Season 9.

TV return: Dane then led the cast of the TNT action drama The Last Ship, playing Commander Tom Chandler.

Patrick Dempsey - The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
Takashi Seida/Epix/MGM Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Patrick Dempsey

Shondaland role: Dempsey starred on Grey’s as Dr. Derek Shepherd until his character was fatally injured in a car accident midway through Season 15.

TV return: He headlined the Epix mystery miniseries The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, playing the titular murder suspect.

Katie Findlay, Man Seeking Woman
Michael Gibson/FX/courtesy Everett Collection

Katie Findlay

Shondaland role: Findlay was one of the regular players of How to Get Away With Murder’s first season, portraying bartender Rebecca Findlay, girlfriend of Wes (Alfred Enoch).

TV return: She starred in the third season of the FXX comedy Man Seeking Woman, playing graphic designer and love interest Lucy.

Katherine Heigl - State of Affairs
Michael Parmelee/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

Katherine Heigl

Shondaland role: Heigl won an Emmy for her role as Dr. Izzie Stevens on Grey’s, a job that ended midway through the show’s sixth season amid Heigl’s fallout with producers.

TV return: She later headlined the 2014 NBC thriller State of Affairs, playing CIA analyst Whitney Tucker.

Martin Henderson, Virgin River
Netflix/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Martin Henderson

Shondaland role: For two seasons, Henderson played Dr. Riggs on Grey’s, Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) first post-McDreamy relationship.

TV return: The actor now stars in the Netflix romantic drama Virgin River, playing bar owner Jack Sheridan.

T.R. Knight - Law & Order: SVU
Virginia Sherwood/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

T.R. Knight

Shondaland role: Knight starred in the first five seasons of Grey’s, playing Dr. George O’Malley, until he grew dissatisfied with the role and stepped away at the end of the show’s fifth season.

TV return: He then had a memorable guest-starring role on the NBC procedural Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, playing twins Brian Smith and Gabe Thomas.

Chyler Leigh, Taxi Brooklyn
Linda Kallerus/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

Chyler Leigh

Shondaland role: Leigh starred on Grey’s as Dr. Lexie Grey from the start of Season 4 to the end of Season 8, when her character died in a plane crash.

TV return: Even before Supergirl, Leigh starred on another TV show, the 2015 action-comedy Taxi Brooklyn. She played NYPD Detective Cat Sullivan on the NBC series.

Chris Lowell, Enlisted
Tommy Garcia/Fox/courtesy Everett Collection

Chris Lowell

Shondaland role: Lowell played receptionist-turned-midwife Dell Parker on Private Practice until the character died of injuries sustained in a car wreck at the end of Season 3.

TV return: The actor starred in the 2014 Fox comedy Enlisted, playing Corporal Derrick Hill.

Sara Ramirez, Madam Secretary
Sarah Shatz/CBS

Sara Ramirez

Shondaland role: Ramirez portrayed Dr. Callie Torres from Season 2 of Grey’s until Season 12, when the doc left Seattle to move to New York City.

TV return: Like Daly, Ramirez made a comeback in Madam Secretary: They played policy advisor Kat Sandoval in Seasons 4 and 5.

Brooke Smith, Ray Donovan
Suzanne Tenner/Showtime/courtesy Everett Collection

Brooke Smith

Shondaland role: Smith played Dr. Erica Hahn on Grey’s from Season 2 to Season 5, when the character disappeared into a parking lot and never returned.

TV return: The actress appeared in 13 episodes of the Showtime drama Ray Donovan, playing nurse Frances.

Isaiah Washington, Bionic Woman
Alan Zenuk/NBC/courtesy Everett Collection

Isaiah Washington

Shondaland role: Washington starred as Dr. Preston Burke on Grey’s until being let go at the end of Season 3 following a homophobic slur scandal.

TV return: He got back to work almost immediately with an arc on the 2007 NBC reboot of Bionic Woman. He played advisor Antonio Pope on the sci-fi series.