Why did Jesse Williams leave Grey’s Anatomy?

Jesse Williams left Grey's Anatomy after 12 seasons. Was it his decision, or a creative one?

GREY’S ANATOMY - “Look Up Child” – Jackson pays a visit to his father that helps set him on the right path on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 6 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Richard Cartwright)
JESSE WILLIAMS
GREY’S ANATOMY - “Look Up Child” – Jackson pays a visit to his father that helps set him on the right path on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 6 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) JESSE WILLIAMS /
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After 12 seasons on the series, fans said goodbye to Dr. Jackson Avery in Grey's Anatomy back in May 2021. It was a surprise decision, but not as surprising as the exit of Justin Chambers as Alex Karev.

The writers did craft a goodbye storyline for Jesse Williams's character. It even included Meredith telling Jackson that she would be the last one standing. This was a line from the beginning of the series, which actually didn't include Jackson but as he started as an intern at Mercy West at the same time Meredith started at Seattle Grace and the two hospitals combined, Meredith included him in the initial rule of that only two from the class would last.

Of course, Jackson's exit wasn't the last we saw of the character. Williams has returned as a guest star now and again, including aiding with the exit of Ellen Pompeo's character, Meredith Grey. So, does this mean that it wasn't Williams's choice to leave the series?

Why Jesse Williams left Grey's Anatomy

It wasn't a creative choice by the writers. Jesse Williams made the choice to leave as his two-year contract came to an end.

Williams had involvement in the crafting of storylines for Jackson Avery to make sure the storylines stayed true to his character, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He and showrunner Krista Vernoff talked about Jackson's storylines in Grey's Anatomy season 17, and they came to an agreement that it looked like it was time for Jackson to move on from the hospital.

For a long time, Jackson had been struggling to make connections. He went on a journey of self-discovery up to his exit, and it was time to see what that would mean for him as he realized that he had achieved everything he could at what would become known as Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. As he saw what was happening on the streets, especially to Black individuals and people of color, Jackson knew that he had to do more and he couldn't do that from Seattle.

It was also a personal choice for Williams. He wanted to spread his wings and push his acting skills a little more. He went straight onto Broadway as the lead in a production, which is certainly a different style of acting compared to that on TV. He has also recently guest starred in Only Murders in the Building. Don't write him off from returning to Grey's Anatomy as a guest star if the storyline needs him, though.

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