Show creator Shonda Rhimes expressed her appreciation for the two actresses after the season 14 finale aired Thursday night.
“I will never stop being grateful for the chance to work with @sarahdrew and @JessicaCapshaw. In April and Arizona, they created powerful unforgettable characters. #GreysAnatomy #TGIT,” Rhimes, 48, tweeted.
Drew, 37, and Capshaw 41, announced they were leaving the show in March, and their characters received happy exits during the finale, with Capshaw’s Arizona Robbins heading to New York City with daughter Sofia, while Drew’s April Kepner married boyfriend Matthew Taylor.
The show’s star Ellen Pompeo shared a message to fans on Instagram who were in the middle of watching the season finale.
“Over the last 14 seasons I’ve cried many tears on screen and off. This show has brought me so much joy and so much laughter but truth be told it has never been easy. This year was no different. Saying goodbye to characters, cast mates, friends is always very hard regardless of the circumstances,” she wrote in the caption.
“What remains and what keeps us going is the incredible passion and loyalty of our fans. So in classic Grey’s bittersweet style, we will leave you tonight with tears in your eyes and hopefully smiles on your faces,” Pompeo continued.
“Thanks for riding with us on this rollercoaster know[n] as Shondaland. Much love, Ellen,” she concluded.
“Finale moment on the show… I love you @JessicaCapshaw,” Drew tweeted alongside a gif of her hugging Capshaw during a wedding.
The actress also shared emotional photos on Instagram after the finale aired, including group shots of herself with cast members Jesse Williams, Kevin McKidd, Debbie Allen, Kelly McCreary and Camilla Luddington, among others.
“It was such a joy to get to spend my final week on the show with almost everyone in the cast in a gorgeous location in Malibu. We laughed SO much, Goofed off WAY too much, and had our fare share of hugs and tears,” Drew wrote in the caption.
“I love this group!! Some of my sweetest moments with Ellen were during both of my pregnancies,” she continued. “She offered so much wonderful advice and cared for me as I was entering into working motherhood. She is a mama bear through and through.”
Drew added, “Giacomo is so wonderful. I love his desire to make the world a better place and his passion for the underserved in our country and around the world. It was also a joy to bond with him after we both produced projects for the first time last hiatus. And he absolutely KILLS it in this episode!”
Williams, who plays Jackson Avery on the show, also shared a farewell on Instagram in a photo of himself, Drew and Capshaw.
“Just a fond farewell to my friends…Tonight’s #SeasonFinale #GreysAnatomymarks the final episode for two of the best to ever do it: @theSarahDrew & @JessicaCapshaw,” he wrote in the caption.
Fans of the series also shared their own reactions on Twitter, including their shock at the finale cliffhanger, in which it was revealed that Teddy Altman (played by Kim Raver) had returned to the show as the interim Chief of Surgery and was pregnant (possibly with Owen Hunt’s child).
Others couldn’t handle their emotions while saying goodbye to Drew and Capshaw, with one user tweeting, “I AM UGLY CRYING! THAY WAS THR BEST EPISODE OF GREYS ANATOMY EVER! @sarahdrew @JessicaCapshaw yall really did that…thank you for portraying amazing characters. #GreysAnatomy.”
Capshaw first joined the show in season 5 before becoming a series regular in season 6, while Drew joined the show in season 6.
Deadline reported that the decision for Capshaw and Drew’s exits was based strictly on the show’s creative direction. Pompeo vigorously denied a report connecting their departures to her new $20 million salary.
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“It’s absolutely not true,” she said. “I mean, I’m not involved in these kind of decisions. However, there are a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons. One of them is that writers have a really hard time creatively, thinking up new stories for all these characters. It’s always sad when we lose people, for whatever reason.”
“I think that it’s important for us to not pit women against each other and to really dispel the notion that women are always victims,” she added. “We’re not enemies, we do lift each other up and support each other, and we’re not victims. We’re very strong, and we’re capable of many, many things.”