By People Staff
Updated June 19, 2009 12:00 AM

After months of speculation surrounding the fate of Grey’s Anatomy‘s George O’Malley, T.R. Knight, who plays the lovable doctor, is breaking his silence about his departure from the hit ABC show.

“Leaving Grey’s Anatomy was not an easy decision for me to make,” Knight says in a statement to PEOPLE. “I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to play this character and will miss my fellow cast and crew very much. I continue to wish them the very best, and wholeheartedly thank all of the fans who have supported me and the show with such passion and enthusiasm.”

Producer Shonda Rhimes simultaneously released a statement, saying, “I think I speak for the entire Grey’s Anatomy family when I say we wish T.R. Knight the best in his future endeavors. He is an incredibly talented actor and a person whose strength of character is admired by all of us.”

While Knight may be happy to make a departure from the show following a season of sparse screen time for his character, costar Jim Pickens says the actor will be missed on the set. “He’s a good man, and a great actor,” Pickens tells PEOPLE. “We have lots of laughs. I’m going to miss his sense of humor.”

Melissa George, who was on Grey’s for several episodes in its fifth season, says she is happy for Knight, who has become a close friend.

“He fought for what he wanted, and he got it,” she told PEOPLE Wednesday at the Whitney Contemporaries Art Party in New York. “He’s moving on to amazing things. I love him very much.” –Lisa IngrassiaABC