Grey's Anatomy Showrunner Explains the Decision to Kill Off One of the Series' Major Characters
"This is the story that demanded to be told," Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff said
This post contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy.
During Thursday's two-hour, crossover mid-season premiere with Station 19, the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial fought hard to save the life of Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) — who was stabbed in his attempt to pursue and expose a sex trafficker. But things quickly took a turn after an emergency surgery, and DeLuca died on the operating table.
In a statement posted on Twitter shortly after the episode aired, Vernoff, 47, wrote, "Giacomo has brought so much talent and so much heart to the role of Andrew DeLuca. We at Grey's Anatomy are grieving the death of this character with all of you. Giacomo played him so beautifully and took him on such a powerful journey — from intern, to romantic, to a mental health crisis and back again."
"Giacomo remains a member of our family not just in perpetuity but for more of this season. You will see him again. As actor and as director," she continued. "This is the story that demanded to be told. But sometimes we writers are just as grief stricken by the stories as you are. This is one of those times."
Concluding her message, Vernoff added, "Thank you Giacomo for your performance, your talent, your grace."
Gianniotti, 31, also shared a message following Thursday's episode, reflecting on his Grey's journey and expressing his gratitude for the experience.
"So much I could say… but all that comes to mind is thank you," he tweeted. "Thank you to all the fans who loved Deluca as much as I did. Telling his story was and will be one of the great honors of my life. Thank you."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
On Instagram, the actor reposted a screenshot of his Twitter statement, where he tagged many of his Grey's castmates and thanked them for their work on the emotional episode.
"It has been a privilege to share the screen with you all, this is where I exit stage left. But the show must go on and I cannot wait to see what you all do next," he captioned the post. "Thank you to my @greysabc family. I will love you all forever."
RELATED VIDEO: Chandra Wilson Says She Will Continue to Star on Grey's Anatomy 'Until the Wheels Come Off'
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Vernoff further discussed how DeLuca's storyline came to be, stating that it "told itself" to her "at the very beginning" of the season.
"These episodes came in whole cloth. This is what I came into the writers' room knowing," she said, before also noting, "There was no decision to kill the character and then discussion of how are we going to kill him."
"Nobody wanted to kill DeLuca," she continued. "I didn't want to kill DeLuca! But when I came in and said, 'You guys, this is the story,' everyone went, 'Oh yeah, that's the story.'"
"What I said to Giacomo at the table read for this episode I think is the truth," Vernoff added. "I said, 'Thank you for playing this character so beautifully and so powerfully that we all get to feel our collective grief through the loss of him.'"
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.