On Friday, Justin Chambers announced that he would be leaving Grey's Anatomy after starring on the series for 15 years, explaining in a statement that he wanted to take the opportunity to diversify his portfolio of work.
Chambers starred on Grey's as Alex Karev, who started as a surgical intern before making his way to resident and eventually becoming a pediatric surgical fellow. During the Season 15 premiere, Karev became the interim chief of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital after Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) took a stress sabbatical. He was fired for his role in Meredith's (Ellen Pompeo) insurance scandal and was hired as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Pacific Northwest General Hospital, ultimately stepping in to help save Meredith's career before returning home to care for his mom.
Scroll through to get a recap of the actor's exit.
"There's no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that's defined so much of my life for the past 15 years," Chambers said in a statement to Deadline. "For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time."
He continued, "As I move on from Grey's Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride."
Fans were shocked to learn that Chambers' last episode has already aired — he was last seen during the series' 350th episode on Nov. 14. During the episode, Karev did his best to keep Meredith from losing her medical license by bringing dozens of former patients to her hearing and reading letters from other doctor on her behalf. Ultimately, his determination paid off, and Meredith's license was reinstated.
It's currently unclear how Grey's will handle Chambers' exit, as his character was not given a big send-off as is often customary on the show, especially in the case of an original character. It's also tricky because Karev was just made Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Pacific Northwest General Hospital, and there's his relationship with wife Jo (Camilla Luddington), which recently appeared strained. Following the Nov. 14 episode, Karev was not seen but it was mentioned that he had gone home to care for his mom. During the midseason finale, Jo brought home an abandoned baby to care for, and it remains to be seen how her husband will fit into that plan.
After the news was announced, Pompeo shared a message about Chambers' exit on Twitter, responding to an article that referred to his departure as "one of its biggest losses yet."
Grey's isn't going anywhere in the near future — the show is currently in its sixteenth season and has been picked up through Season 17. It recently passed ER as the longest-running medical drama and remains ABC’s most-watched and highest-rated series in adults 18-49 this season. Pompeo, whose Meredith Grey is now the last remaining intern out of the group that started together in the series premiere, told Entertainment Tonight in October that she and creator Shonda Rhimes will make the decision on when to end the show together.
"It's something Shonda and I will decide together," she said. "I've been doing it a long time and I do get restless, but the fans are just still so passionate about the show."
"I think the fans will let us know," she added. "When the numbers start to drop and people aren't watching the same, people aren't as passionate about it... it's time to call it."
Photo Credit: Getty / Mitch Haaseth