We’re onto season 19 of Grey’s Anatomy, and throughout the years we’ve met and had to say goodbye to so many fantastic characters. From patients and doctors to love interests and friends, it’s hard to even list all the awesome fictional people we’ve gotten to know in each season. And with a show that’s gone on this long, it’s not surprising that many of the character exits have had to do with the actors wanting to move on. Even star Ellen Pompeo is leaving the popular medical drama.
Needless to say, we have a bunch of characters to pick from in terms of who has departed. We’re breaking down six exits that were the most unexpected, starting with Dr. Cristina Yang.
Sandra Oh as Dr. Cristina Yang
Dr. Cristina Yang is without a doubt one of the best characters in Grey’s Anatomy history, and we have the writers and actress Sandra Oh to thank for that. She was one of the original characters from the first season, and we get to know her as an intern working alongside protagonist Meredith Grey. Right off the bat, we learned that Cristina is ambitious, hardworking, and hilariously sarcastic. You could always depend on her to tell it like it is.
To the shock of fans, it was announced that Oh would be leaving Grey’s Anatomy after season 10 to pursue other projects. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2013, the Emmy Award-winning actress explained, “Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go.”
In the show, Cristina accepted a job in Zurich, Switzerland and left Seattle in the season 10 finale.
Katherine Heigl as Dr. Izzie Stevens
Another character we got to meet in the first season of Grey’s Anatomy was Dr. Izzie Stevens. She was an ex-model-turned-surgical resident with a kind heart and a tendency to become emotionally invested in her patients. Some of her standout moments included her relationship with patient Denny Duquette, her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, and her departure from the hospital. She was such a staple of the medical drama, and fans were upset to see her go after the sixth season.
The Emmy Award winner chose to leave Grey’s Anatomy to focus on her family and pursue other projects. Amid her departure, there were also reports of tension between the actress and the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, that made headlines. The show wrote off her character by having her move out of Seattle to start a new life.
In a 2022 interview, Heigl admitted she felt like she “just kind of fled in a panic,” explaining: “I think with Grey’s at that time, I didn’t feel I had any other choice. I was breaking, it was breaking me, and I was young.”