It’s always hard to say goodbye.
“It’s always emotional when someone leaves,” he told PEOPLE at the ABC Upfront’s party earlier this week. “They become more than costars, they become family. When you spend nine or 10 seasons with someone, that’s more than a costar.”
Pickens Jr., 63, who plays Dr. Richard Webber on the show, said the cast has become close offscreen and is involved in each other’s personal lives as well as professional.
“You watch everyone grow,” he said. “In some cases, there are women who have had children during the run of the show and are now raising families.”
“Listen, if it’s time, it’s time,” he said. “You don’t want to overdo it. I think it will run its natural course.”
RELATED VIDEO: Grey’s Anatomy: Jessica Capshaw, Sarah Drew To Exit After Season 14
On Thursday night’s season 14 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, longtime characters April (Drew) and Arizona (Capshaw) left the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.
Both April and Arizona have been recurring characters on the show since season 6.
“For the past 10 years, I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins, but also being madly in love with playing her. Arizona Robbins is kind, intelligent, funny, insightful, bold, playful, fierce and really good at her job,” Capshaw tweeted in March.
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“She was one of the first members of the LGBTQ community to be represented in a series regular role on network television. Her impact on the world is permanent and forever. Forever,” the star said of her fan-favorite character.
Drew also addressed her departure on social media, writing, “Hey guys. Thank you for all of the love. I know you’re sad. I’m sad too. I haven’t really had the time to process this information.”
“I’ve been with it for less than 48 hours, so I’m not ready to say my thank yous and give an all-encompassing statement about my 9 years here,” she continued. “That will come later 🙂 For now, I’d like to say: I love you, and I love April, and her story isn’t over yet.”