We just learned that McSteamy was fired from Grey's Anatomy. He wasn't the only one.

Beginning back in 2005 and running for 20 seasons (and counting), it's not surprising that Grey's Anatomy has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs during its time on air.

The medical drama was a phenomenon when it first premiered almost 20 years ago, becoming a watercooler discussion point and skyrocketing the careers of the likes of Katherine Heigl, Patrick Dempsey and (of course), Meredith Grey herself, Ellen Pompeo.

But with the good comes the bad, and the long-running series has also hosted a lot of controversies: namely its ever-rotating cast. From straight-up firings to characters being dramatically killed off or quietly written off the show, we've rounded up the stars of Grey's Anatomy who were forced to leave.

Why Eric Dane left Grey's Anatomy.

Image: ABC. 


Euphoria star Eric Dane will be forever known by most by the affectionate nickname he had on the show: McSteamy. Dane played Dr Mark Sloan for six years on the medical drama before getting killed off in a plane crash, alongside his girlfriend and Meredith's sister, Lexie.

To say this devastated fans would be an understatement.

At the time, it was unclear why the two main characters were killed off in such a brutal fashion, but Dane is now spilling that he was actually fired. 

"I didn't leave so much as I think I was let go," Dane admitted on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast.

The actor shared he was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction toward the end of his run on the series, but he didn't think that was the reason. "I was struggling. They didn't let me go because of that, although it definitely didn't help," he said.

Instead, he suspects his salary was getting too high. "I was starting to become — as most of these actors who have spent significant time on the show — you start to become very expensive for the network," he said.

"And the network knows that the show is going to do what it's going to do irrespective of who they keep on it — as long as they have their [Meredith] Grey, they were fine."


He did note that creator Shonda Rhimes was "really great" throughout the exit. "I love Shonda Rhimes and she protected me but I was probably fired," Dane said.

"It wasn't ceremoniously like, 'You’re fired,' it was just like, 'You're not coming back.'"

Why Katherine Heigl left Grey's Anatomy.

Image: ABC. 


Katherine Heigl's departure from the show was a little more complicated.

The iconic actress played Izzie Stephens for the first six seasons, becoming a fan favourite, not to mention a bona fide rom-com leading lady away from Grey's Anatomy.

She ultimately decided to leave the show in 2010 during its sixth season but there were factors leading up to that decision that suggest there was more at play. The controversies began in 2008 when Heigl declined to put her name forward for Emmy consideration, as she claimed she hadn’t been given enough material to warrant a nomination. 

This reportedly caused a divide between herself and Rhimes, even after she apologised. Rhimes famously told Oprah Winfrey, "when people show you who they are, believe them". From here, rumours began to emerge that writers were going to kill Izzie off, which wasn't helped by the character being diagnosed with cancer in a later season.

In 2009, Heigl was candid about the poor working conditions on the set of Grey's Anatomy in a chat on The Late Show with David Letterman. "Our first day back was Wednesday. It was — I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them — a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean," she said on the late-night show. 

Rhimes hasn't shied away from throwing shade back, once telling The Hollywood Reporter that on the set of her other hit show, Scandal, there were "no Heigls", as she refuses to work with "nasty people".

So yep, there was a lot that went into Heigl finally pulling the plug in season six. She has since reflected on her decision to depart the hit series, expressing some regret about her exit. 


"If I could have found a way to work within it, that could have also worked for me. But I only saw it as this one thing: I was up here at a level of intensity that was not healthy for me. And I just kind of fled in a panic," she told SiriusXM host Bevy Smith. 

"I look back at it and sometimes I go, 'God, I wish I had just calmed down a moment. Taken a breath, thought it through, had some conversations about this possibility. What about this possibility? How about if I do, you know, just this many episodes a season?'"

Why Brooke Smith left Grey's Anatomy.

Image: ABC. 


Brooke Smith played Dr. Erica Hahn in Grey's Anatomy from season five, a character who became a love interest for Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) which was the first same-sex relationship depicted on the show.

However, fans didn't get long to soak up this milestone as she was quickly dropped. 

The actor told Entertainment Weekly that Rhimes "just suddenly told me that they couldn't write for my character anymore", adding "it was the last thing I expected".

"My final scene is just me heading to my car... I honestly don't know what happens in the next episode," she said.

"I was really, really shocked. I was floored when they told me."

Given that Smith played a lesbian character, the showrunner was immediately hit with accusations of homophobia, which she quickly denied. "Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian," Rhimes told EW.

"Unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run."

Why Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw left Grey's Anatomy.

Image: ABC. 


In a double whammy for fans, two main characters were cut in 2018 in a shocking series overhaul. 

The most surprising was Jessica Capshaw, who had worked on 10 seasons playing Dr. Arizona Robbins, who was in a relationship with Callie. 

At the time, Capshaw wrote on Instagram, "For the past ten years I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins, but also being madly in love with playing her. 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 forever." 


Sarah Drew, another long-running main cast,  was cut at the same time. She played Dr April Kepner for 10 years. 

The showrunner attempted to explain the decision to fans.

"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," executive producer Krista Vernoff said in a statement.

"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 was especially candid about how it felt to be dropped from Rhimes' long-running medical drama. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Drew shared the reason she was given for being written out of the show.

"I was told that the show had too many characters and that they needed to downsize because they couldn't service all of the characters effectively. They didn't want any of us to be left in the background and not getting much of a story," Drew said.

"Krista Vernoff said that she felt like April had been through so much and had come out the other side and that she didn't know what she could put her through again. It was really hard to hear that."

Why Isaiah Washington left Grey's Anatomy.

Image: ABC. 


A lot has been said about Isaiah Washington's controversial exit from the show.

Back in 2007, it was widely reported that the actor, who played Dr Preston Burke on the medical drama, was fired for using a homophobic slur on set. At the time, he denied the slur was directed at anybody, but many on set said he was referring to his costar T.R. Knight's sexuality.

When asked about it at the Golden Globes press room in 2007, Washington denied the accusations but repeated the slur. "No, I did not call T.R. a f****t. Never happened, never happened."


Washington later apologised for using the slur in his response.

Since then, more information has come to light about exactly what unfolded during the altercation — and it turns out, Patrick Dempsey was involved.

In Lynette Rice's book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey's Anatomy, she spoke to series writer Mark Wilding about tension brewing between Washington and Dempsey.

"I think one of them had been late to set one day and the other one then decided to pay him back by being late himself. Then it sort of exploded. They got into an arguing match, and then before you know it they were physically fighting," he recalled.

"I guess [Washington] felt disrespected that he and the crew had been waiting. He went after Patrick, pushed him up against the wall, and said, 'You can't talk to me the way you talk to that little f****t T.R.'"

Washington said he was blindsided by the firing that year. 

"I did everything that the producers and the network asked me to do," he said.

"I came back under great stress, and thought I was doing the job I was hired to do. I thought that was going to speak for my future at Grey's, but apparently that wasn't the same vision that the network and studio had for me."

Feature image: ABC. 

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