Jesse Williams Defends Ellen Pompeo's Limited Upcoming Role on 'Grey's' : 'It's Well Earned'

Ellen Pompeo will only appear in eight episodes of Grey's Anatomy's upcoming 19th season

Jesse Williams isn't worried about the future of Grey's Anatomy.

The series alum, who played Dr. Jackson Avery, spoke about his former costar Ellen Pompeo taking a step back from her role as Meredith Grey next season. "That woman has worked so hard all year, every year for 20 years for that franchise," he told E!'s Daily Pop.

"Whatever time she takes off is well-earned," he continued. "And I'm sure they have a master plan."

News that Pompeo, 52, would only return for eight episodes of season 19 surfaced via Deadline on August 3. In turn, she'll be starring in a new Hulu series based on the 2009 horror flick Orphan.

For years, Pompeo has been campaigning for the end of Grey's Anatomy, which has been airing since 2005.

"I've been trying to focus on convincing everybody that it should end," Pompeo told Insider in December. "I feel like I'm the super naive one who keeps saying, 'But what's the story going to be, what story are we going to tell?'"

Actors Ellen Pompeo and Jesse Williams arrive at the 2013 People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on January 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Others don't seem to care so much about the plot anymore. "Everyone's like, 'Who cares, Ellen? It makes a gazillion dollars," she added.

Pompeo reiterated her point to Entertainment Tonight, saying she's been "trying to get away for years."

GREY’S ANATOMY - “I’ll Cover You” – A former patient of Link’s, Simon, is in the ER with his pregnant wife; and Bailey receives an offer from Nick on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Liliane Lathan) ELLEN POMPEO
Liliane Lathan/ABC

"It's not because I haven't been trying," Pompeo said of leaving the series. "I have strong relationships at the network [ABC] and they have been very, very good to me, and have incentivized me to stay."

Williams, on the other hand, left Grey's Anatomy after season 17 in 2021. But the 42-year-old actor isn't opposed to coming back to ABC in one way or another.

He's already made a Grey's cameo since his departure, and can see the draw of a possible spinoff alongside television love interest Sarah Drew (Dr. April Kepner.)

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"That thing would probably write itself and do very, very well," he told E!'s Daily Pop of a show focused on Avery and Drew's relationship.

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

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