Ellen Pompeo Reveals When She Wants to Leave 'Grey's Anatomy'

The highly popular Grey's Anatomy has clocked in 16 seasons, totaling 363 episodes. With that much material already made, one has to ask: "When will it end?" The answer is, simply put, when Ellen Pompeo wants it to end. The actress — who has played the lead character, Meredith Grey since the ABC drama began in 2005 — recently shed some light on just when that might be. While chatting with Dax Shepard on his podcast Armchair Expert, Pompeo did not give a firm time frame when the show would end, but she described what she would have to feel like to exit the role.

"I do not want to be the grapes dying on the vine," she said, per Entertainment Tonight. "Already to watch myself age from 33 to 50 now onscreen, that's not so fun. Because you really see it because I'm in the same clothes, I'm in the same character. The way I see myself aging, that's a motherf—er.

"But at the same time, I think the overall goal of my life is to always keep my ego in check. I don't want to tell myself lies. I don't lie about my age. I don't put anything in my face. I don't want to tell myself any lies. I'm not doing myself any favors. But certainly, I think to dip out sooner rather than later, at this point, having done what we've done, to leave when the show is still on top, is definitely a goal. I'm not trying to stay on the show forever. No way. The truth is, if I get too aggravated and I'm no longer grateful there, I should not be there."

As for why she has not reached that point yet, Pompeo, 50, said that she loves the size of the show's platform when it comes to spreading awareness about societal issues. She also credits her philosophy of treating the work like "a marathon, not a sprint."

"The not getting bored and phoning it in, it's a marathon, not a sprint. You've got to know when you can slow down and when you can speed up. I just try and check myself all the time," the actress said. "Being engaged in the story and having some control over my storyline and talking about things that I think are interesting is kind of what helps."

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She added: "What at this juncture keeps me going is because the show is such a monster, we have this enormous platform and we have some sort of leeway to talk about human trafficking, to talk about sexual assault, to talk about big pharma. So if we can impart some ideas, I think it's an important platform. So I try to stay in a place of gratitude."

Grey's Anatomy is currently between seasons, with Season 17 delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is expected to return once safe working conditions can be ensured.