‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Boss Krista Vernoff on Show’s Uncertain Future: ‘It’s a Source of Frustration’

By Kate Aurthur

In an interview this week about Thursday’s crossover episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Station 19,” Krista Vernoff, the showrunner of both ABC dramas, talked about the uncertain future of “Grey’s.”

“Whether or not it’s the last season of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ I don’t know,” Vernoff said. “And that’s the truth.”

For a Variety cover story in October, the show’s star and producer, Ellen Pompeo, who has played Dr. Meredith Grey for 17 seasons, teased the possibility that this might be the final season of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“We don’t know when the show is really ending yet,” Pompeo said then, bringing up the subject somewhat out of the blue. “But the truth is, this year could be it.”

Pompeo continued: “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don’t know that this is the last year? But it very well could be.”

That was months ago, but the status of “Grey’s” remains in limbo, according to Vernoff.

“I wish I knew,” Vernoff said about whether the show is coming back. “It’s a source of frustration at this point. And it sort of doubles my job, my workload, because I have to plan for both contingencies. But I am. And God willing, I’ll know soon.” 

Meredith collapsed at the end of the season premiere, and was then diagnosed with COVID-19. Throughout the season, viewers have seen Meredith on a beautiful beach, which is serving either as a place she is dreaming or, Vernoff said, a “magical in-between place” bridging life and death. There, Meredith has been visited by her late husband Derek (Patrick Dempsey), her late friend George (T.R. Knight) and “Grey’s” characters who are still alive.

Meredith woke up briefly, and seemed like she was recovering, only to suffer a setback in the midseason finale — one that forced her doctors/loved ones to intubate her, sending her back to the beach. The show returns with new episodes on Thursday, with a blockbuster crossover with “Station 19” beginning at 8 p.m. (The full interview with Vernoff will be published after the episodes.)

“Grey’s Anatomy” remains ABC’s most-watched show, and “Station 19” is No. 2. Six episodes of “Grey’s” aired in November and December, and for the first time, Vernoff revealed how many episodes will comprise this season: 17.

Vernoff detailed how difficult it’s been to produce the show during COVID.

“We’re shooting 10-hour days,” she said. “And that is a really, really significant change to what we’re able to accomplish and shoot.” 

Additionally, scenes can’t have crowds of actors in them, a big change for “Grey’s.” “If you usually have five or six people in a scene, and now you usually have two people in a scene, sometimes the whole cast isn’t in the episode,” Vernoff said.

Regarding the show’s future, during a recent interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Pompeo, who is in the midst of contract negotiations, said: “We honestly have not decided. We’re really trying to figure it out right now.”

“It’s what story do we tell?” Pompeo continued. “To end a show this iconic — how do we do it? I just want to make sure we do this character and this show and the fans — I want to make sure we do it right.”

Vernoff told Variety she looks forward to vaccines bringing relief, both for the fictional frontline workers of “Grey’s Anatomy” and for the world. “I do see a light at the end of the tunnel for these characters,” she said. “Whether this is the end of the series or the end of the season.”

Grey’s Anatomy is now in showing on DSTV channel 101.

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