Warning: This post contains spoilers for Grey's Anatomy Season 17, Episode 7, "Helplessly Hoping."
Grey's Anatomy returned for its midseason premiere on Thursday night, and the medical drama did what it does best: kills off fan favorites. Dr. Andrew Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti) was a major love interest for Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) following the death of Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) and at the center of a moving storyline about mental health as he dealt with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. He was stabbed by a sex trafficker in the crossover event with spinoff Station 19 before he succumbed to his wounds. Before he walked off into the afterlife with his mother, Deluca shared a touching goodbye with Meredith on her mind beach.
Gianniotti has been a series regular on Grey's Anatomy since 2015, and he spoke to The AV Club to reflect on his exit from the hit series. "When it was first kind of broken down to me, that DeLuca would meet his demise, I immediately panicked—not because I'd be leaving the show, but because we had just finished telling a very important mental health storyline with DeLuca's bipolar disorder," Gianniotti explained. "I was worried that there was a scenario where the story would be that, in a moment of instability, maybe there were some thoughts of taking his life. I never, ever, ever could imagine the story going in that way. I thought that would be a huge disservice to the mental health community, and to DeLuca. So once I found out that that's not how he was meeting his demise, that it would be in a very tragic but noble way, then I was immediately reassured. I took a deep breath and I was like, "Okay. This, this sounds like a story worth telling.'"
Gianniotti continued, explaining that he was glad that he got his moment to say goodbye to Pompeo in a classic Grey's tearjerker. "I felt very connected to DeLuca's wrapping up and saying goodbye and closing all these loose ends," It was just a great opportunity for me to spend a lot of time with Ellen, who I've just grown so fond of. We've become such great friends, and close, over the years. It was so nice to just have hours and hours and hours together on the beach when we weren't shooting, to just talk about how much of a great time we've had making a show together, and how our relationship has changed over the years, and how much her friendship and mentorship to me as an actor has meant to me, and all the advice that she gave me about what's next, and all that kind of stuff."
"We all agree that, of course, it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to this character—but we found it was bittersweet," Gianniotti admitted. With Gianniotti's exit and the news that Sarah Drew is returning in a guest spot, fans are certain that this season of Grey's Anatomy will be the last. After 17 seasons, is it finally time to say goodbye to Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital?