Jesse Williams is leaving Greys Anatomy after 12 seasons

7 May 2021, 11:57

Grey's Anatomy bids goodbye to Jackson in farewell episode

Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

Jackson Avery, the last remaining member of the Plastics Posse, is officially checking out of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

Here we go again! Grey's Anatomy is about to bid farewell to yet another long-time cast member. After 12 seasons and 11 years playing Dr. Jackson Avery, Jesse Williams is leaving the hit ABC medical drama.

As of season 17, Jesse Williams was one of the longest serving cast members on the show, behind originals Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr., and Kevin McKidd, who joined in season 5. Jackson Avery was first introduced back in season 6 during the merger between Seattle Grace and Mercy West hospitals.

Jesse's final episode as Jackson will air in two weeks on May 20th. Here's how the show has set up the character's departure, and how it involves Sarah Drew's April Kepner. Spoilers ahead!

Why is Jesse Williams leaving Grey's Anatomy?

Grey's Anatomy: Jesse Williams exits after 12 seasons
Grey's Anatomy: Jesse Williams exits after 12 seasons. Picture: Mike Rosenthal, Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

How did Jackson leave Grey's Anatomy?

If you aren't up to date with the recent episodes of show, here's your quick Jackson Avery recap.

While treating patients during the pandemic at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, Jackson begins thinking about bettering the medical system for people of colour and fighting the racial inequality within it. He decides to take over the Avery foundation and start making changes, but he realises he cannot do this while continuing to work within the healthcare system.

In the episode, Jackson goes to speak to his estranged father, stops by his mother Catherine's house to tell her his decision and then drives (dramatically, in the rain) to April to ask her and their daughter Harriet to move to Boston with him so he can begin his work.

She eventually agrees, also spilling the news that she and Matthew (the paramedic that she left at the alter for Jackson, and then later got married to before exiting the show back in season 14) are no longer together.

While the fans are devastated to be losing yet another beloved series regular cast member, Jackson's storyline wrapping up with a Japril reunion was a welcome plot twist. (Would we have preferred Jackson to stay and bring April back to GSMH instead? Yes, but that's a story for another time. At least no one died.)

Jackson's farewell episode will air on Thursday May 20th, and will see emotional goodbyes between him, Dr. Meredith Grey, Dr. Miranda Bailey and the rest of the characters.

READ MORE: Grey's Anatomy says shock goodbye to Andrew DeLuca in emotional episode

Grey's Anatomy reunites Jackson and April in emotional episode promo

As for why Jesse Williams has decided to leave the show? It's been reported that his two-year contract was up for renewal at the end of season 17. It's likely that he chose not to renew it, opting to leave the show on his own terms and explore other opportunities within the industry and as an activist.

In a statement to Deadline, show runner Krista Vernoff said: “Jesse Williams is an extraordinary artist and activist. Watching his evolution these past 11 years both on screen and off has been a true gift. Jesse brings so much heart, such depth of care, and so much intelligence to his work. We will miss Jesse terribly and we will miss Jackson Avery — played to perfection for so many years.”

Jesse also thanked Vernoff, Shonda Rhimes, the cast and crew and the fans of Grey's in his statement: “I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow castmates, our incredible crew, Krista, Ellen and Debbie."

"As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds. The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I’ll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies and dear friends.”

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