'Grey's Anatomy' Showrunner Teases Series Finale as Close to Season 17

Since it premiered in 2005, the medical drama Grey's Anatomy has been a mega-hit for ABC. Despite being in its seventeenth season, Grey's still pulled a 1.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 5.7 million total viewers in December 2020. However, showrunner Krista Vernhoff is bracing for the end. She revealed that despite being a number one show for ABC, renewal is still in limbo.

"I'm planning a season and a finale that could function as either a season finale or a series finale," Vernoff told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm planning for both contingencies and it's hard and it's not ideal. It's not where I wish we were."

"I've told them [ABC executives] that I have to know before I'm making the finale what we're making," Vernhoff continued. "Because there are a couple of character threads that will change. I've got plans for both contingencies. Either there will be closure or I will build something in that allows me to have a bit of a cliffhanger and a thread for next season."

Filming Grey's Anatomy and its spinoff series, Station 19, is a challenge during the best of times and has been a daunting task during a global pandemic. "It's been so complicated and so difficult to come back to production during the pandemic," Vernhoff explained. "We are on fumes. I don't really have creative space for imaginings of what might happen next year; I'm trying to get through this season. Once I know if this is the final season or not, I can start to try to imagine other things. But trying to simultaneously plan for the end of the series and the end of the season — if it's not the end of the series — it's like breaking two shows. That's what I've got bandwidth for. That, Station 19 and Rebel. That's enough."

The cast and crew are about two-thirds of the way through filming season 17, and Vernhoff told Deadline that she "doesn't know yet." Star Ellen Pompeo also explained "We honestly have not decided. We're really trying to figure it out right now." They are currently locked in negotiations.

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Pompeo had previously closed a massive two-year deal for Seasons 16 and 17, and with that coming to an end, she is working to negotiate a one or two-season extension. This would include a pay bump for the show's star, who is currently the highest-paid actress on a network drama. During season 14, she negotiated a package that included $575,000 per episode, a seven-figure signing bonus, producing fees, and back-end equity, among other perks.