"We're, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is," showrunner Krista Vernoff told Variety

Grey’s Anatomy fans will eventually come to learn what happened to Justin Chambers’ Dr. Alex Karev.

Following last Thursday’s episode of the ABC medical drama, showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke with Variety about Chambers’ sudden departure from the show, revealing that fans will eventually be able to receive “clarity” about his character’s fate.

“It was a very careful threading of a needle, where we are giving a little bit of information and pain to Jo,” she said, referring to Camilla Luddington’s character. In the latest episode, Jo told Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) that Alex had stopped returning her calls and that he was “going through something.”

“We’re, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is,” Vernoff added. “And it takes us quite a few more episodes to get there and to give the audience clarity.”

Justin Chambers
| Credit: Richard Cartwright/Walt Disney Television via Getty

Vernoff explained that she wanted to be careful with Jo’s emotional state.

“Jo went through so much pain and so much grief just last season that I wanted to be careful,” Vernoff said. “And so it’s a bit of a mystery [what’s going on with Alex], so that we don’t watch Jo in the same place that we watched her in last season. We did it as carefully as we could. But it takes a while to get there.”

Last month, ABC confirmed to PEOPLE that Chambers, 49, was not returning to the franchise.

“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said in a statement to PEOPLE then. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”

Justin Chambers Grey's Anatomy Camilla Luddington
Justin Chambers
| Credit: Jennifer Clasen/ABC

He added, “As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rhimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride.”

Throughout the years, fans grew to love his character Dr. Alex Karev — an egotistical medical intern who blossomed into a nurturing pediatric surgeon throughout the seasons. Last season, Karev was fired for his involvement in the insurance fraud scandal and was hired Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Pacific Northwest General Hospital. His last episode aired on Nov. 14.

“I mean that’s the hard part about Grey’s, people come and go,” Jake Borelli, who plays Dr. Levi Schmitt, told PEOPLE. “We had that happen with Jessica Capshaw and then before, and I think it’s like life, it ebbs and flows.”

“You know, Alex Karev, the character, has been a massive part of the show for so long, so it’s going to be interesting being in the hospital without that force,” he continued. “So we’re excited to see what the rest of the season brings.”

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.