Christina Dugan
May 17, 2018 05:00 PM

The time has come for Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw to bid farewell to their Grey’s Anatomy characters.

But to fans, the big question is, why?

In March, news broke that the two series regulars will be exiting the show at the end of season 14.

Deadline reported that the decision for Capshaw and Drew’s exits was based strictly on the show’s creative direction. (Star Ellen Pompeo vigorously denied a report connecting their departures to her new $20 million salary.)

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; John Shearer/Getty; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

“It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters,” Grey’s creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes said in a statement. “Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic — both the LBGTQ and devout Christian communities are underrepresented on TV. I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family.”

Executive producer Krista Vernoff added: “The characters of Arizona and April are permanently woven into the fabric of Grey’s Anatomy thanks to the extraordinary work of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew. As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses.”

Drew, who joined the show in season 6 as April Kepner, addressed the news 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. 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. And the really good news (for me, at least) is that I’m here on set shadowing one of my favorite people, Kevin McKidd, with my beloved Grey’sfamily all this week and next, so I get to process all of my feelings surrounded by the community that has nourished and nurtured me for almost a decade. For that, I am so grateful.”

ABC (2)

Capshaw first joined the show as Arizona Robbins in season 5 before becoming a series regular in 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.

ABC (2)

“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.

“I am grateful that I have gotten to bring her to life and for the life that she has brought to me. I am sad to see her go, but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and our imaginations. Shonda, thank you for the ride on this incredible rollercoaster. With a heart full of love, Jessica,” she concluded.

Pompeo recently negotiated $20 million per season for her role as Meredith Grey in the Shonda Rhimes series. She refuted rumors that Capshaw and Drew were exiting the show because her own pay raise meant they couldn’t afford for them to come back.

“It’s absolutely not true,” she said. “I mean, I’m not involved in these kind of decisions. However, there are a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons. One of them is that writers have a really hard time creatively, thinking up new stories for all these characters. It’s always sad when we lose people, for whatever reason.”

“I think that it’s important for us to not pit women against each other and to really dispel the notion that women are always victims,” she added. “We’re not enemies, we do lift each other up and support each other, and we’re not victims. We’re very strong, and we’re capable of many, many things.”

Last week, Drew and Capshaw shared some sweet behind-the-scenes shots documenting their last day on set.

“Here are some of my favorite people on the planet. While shooting this scene my heart was so full of joy and sadness at the same time that it was almost unbearable,” Drew wrote alongside a shot of herself with costars Jesse Williams, Kelly McCreary, Caterina Scorsone, Kevin McKidd, and Capshaw.

“As I was looking up at all of these beautiful faces, smiling down at me with so much love, happy to see April alive and well, I was overcome with sadness about the reality of not being with all of these people in the same place in the same way ever again,” the 37-year-old actress added. “But, I was ALSO overcome with the joy of having had the opportunity in my life to know such gorgeous people whom I have loved, who have loved me so well for 9 years.”

Sharing a similar photo, Capshaw simply captioned the sweet shot, “Family. Respect. Love.

Drew went on to say her goodbyes to many members of the Grey’s Anatomy cast and crew.

The season finale of Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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