Ellen Pompeo to Appear in Only 8 Eps of 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 19 as She Signs On for New Hulu Series

Ellen Pompeo will be starring and executive producing the upcoming orphan limited series on Hulu

Ellen Pompeo is starting to take on more high-profile projects outside of Grey's Anatomy.

The 52-year-old actress — who has anchored the hit ABC medical drama for the past 17 years — will have a scaled-back role in the forthcoming season. Per a Deadline report on Wednesday, Pompeo will appear in only eight episodes of the 19th season.

In tandem with that shift at Grey's, Pompeo has signed on to star in Hulu's upcoming limited series Orphan, an adaptation of the 2009 film based on the true story of Ukranian-born Natalia Grace, whose adoptive parents in the U.S. claimed she was an adult sociopath pretending to be a child. Pompeo will also serve as executive producer via her ABC Signature-based production company, Calamity Jane

The upcoming drama will depict a "Midwestern couple who adopts what they believe is an 8-year-old girl with a rare form of dwarfism." As the series goes on, "they begin to raise her alongside their three biological children" and "slowly start to believe she may not be who she says she is," according to a release cited in The Hollywood Reporter.

"As they question her story, they're confronted with hard questions of their own about the lengths they're willing to go to defend themselves, falling into a battle that's fought in the tabloids, the courtroom, and ultimately their marriage," teases the release.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear The doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial celebrate the holidays; Hamilton and Meredith prepare for a milestone on their project; Link wants to spend the holiday with Amelia and Scout as a family; Schmitt is faced with a difficult decision during surgery on an all-new episode of Greys Anatomy, THURSDAY, DEC. 16 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EST), on ABC.
Liliane Lathan/ABC via Getty

In Grey's Meredith Grey ended the 18th season making the tough decision to stay in Seattle and become Grey Sloan Memorial's new interim Chief of Surgery.

And many of Pompeo's colleagues both behind and in front of the camera — including series creator Shonda Rhimes — have pointed out that there is no Grey's Anatomy without Meredith Grey, so it seems likely the show's fate lies in Pompeo's hands moving forward.

Prior to signing the Hulu deal, the actress admitted she'd be fine hanging up her acting hat when Grey's Anatomy takes its final bow. "I'm not saying I'll never act again, I very well may, but I'm not super excited about continuing my acting career," she said last year on the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast.

Ellen Pompeo
Todd Williamson/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

"The acting, even though I haven't done a million different roles, I feel like I've done it," Pompeo added at the time. "Sitting around in trailers, traveling around, shooting this in Atlanta, shooting that in Vancouver. I have no desire to go sit in trailers at 11 o'clock at night and wait to shoot scenes and have ADs knock on my door and tell me when I can eat lunch. You know, it's for the young at heart. It's for the youth!"

The actress previously told Entertainment Weekly in 2018 that she was "looking for a change" in her career. "I'm clearly not prepared right now to make any formal announcement about what my future is on the show, but I am really feeling like we have told the majority of the stories that we can tell," she said at the time.

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Season 19 of Grey's Anatomy premieres Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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