Jesse Williams is leaving 'Grey's Anatomy': 'I will be forever grateful'

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It's time to say farewell to another departing doctor: Jesse Williams is exiting ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" after 12 seasons.

Williams, who played Dr. Jackson Avery, first joined the medical drama in 2009 as one of the doctors who joined Mercy West Medical Center after the merger. He will appear in his final episode titled "Tradition" on May 20.

"I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow cast mates, our incredible crew, Krista, Ellen and Debbie," Williams said in astatement obtained by USA TODAY Friday, referring to creator Shonda Rhimes, showrunner Krista Vernoff, and co-stars Ellen Pompeo and Debbie Allen.

"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," continued Williams.

Jesse Williams played Dr. Jackson Avery since Season 6.
"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."

Vernoff called Williams "an extraordinary artist and activist."

"Watching his evolution these past 11 years both on screen and off has been a true gift," she said in the statement. "We will miss Jesse terribly and we will miss Jackson Avery — played to perfection for so many years."

His exit isn't the only surprise for "Grey's" fans. In this week's episode, Williams' character paid a visit to his former love interest, Dr. April Kepner, played by Sarah Drew who departed the show at the end of Season 14.

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"Grey's Anatomy" returned to ABC on Nov. 12 for its 17th season and largely centers around the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think it's our job to humanize it," Vernoff said during Variety's Virtual Power of Women panel in October 2020. "I feel like the politicians have politicized an illness that affects human beings regardless of political affiliation. So our job is to make it human, not political."


Steven Madden

Steven Madden

Steven has covered a variety of industries during his media career including car care, pharmaceutical, and retail.