Ellen Pompeo To Ramp Up ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ On-Screen Presence With More Episodes In Season 21

EXCLUSIVE: Ellen Pompeo‘s Meredith Grey received a big sendoff in the 2023 midseason premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Despite her scaled back on-screen presence since, Pompeo continued to get top billing in the opening credits and never lost her series regular status as she also remained the series’ narrator. Now, the ABC medical drama’s title star may return to appearing in a number of episodes traditionally associated with being a series regular.

Pompeo is set to be in at least seven of the Season 21’s 18 episodes, sources tell Deadline. That number is likely to grow, I hear. If the episode count gets into the double-digits, that won’t be far off from the work load of the other veteran Grey’s Anatomy series regulars who, as Deadline reported exclusively, are taking an episode reduction as a cost-cutting measure and will each skip a couple of episodes next season. Reps for ABC and Grey’s Anatomy producers ABC Signature and Shondaland declined comment.

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After her Season 19 “exit” episode, Pompeo returned for the finale that season. In Season 20, she ended up appearing in half of the 10 episodes, including having a major presence in the season premiere and finale. That is in addition to her remaining an executive producer and doing the voiceover that frames every episode — something that will continue next season.

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“She’s always a huge part of the show; we have an open door policy with her. When she is able to be here, we welcome her with open arms,” Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Meg Marinis told Deadline in March. “She’s constantly in my head, her voice.”

In that interview, Marinis noted her “great relationship” with Pompeo, which has been among the factors fueling speculation last year that Pompeo might consider returning full-time after Marinis took the reins as Grey’s showrunner ahead of Season 20.

There has been an issue with availability. Pompeo pulled back her on-screen role so she could do other projects, starting with the Hulu limited series Natalia (fka Orphan), based on the Natalia Grace story, which she is starring in and executive producing through her company Calamity Jane. This past season, Pompeo was juggling the two shows, both produced by ABC Signature, but that is no longer a factor: Natalia is set to wrap at the end of this week, ahead of the Season 21 production start for Grey’s Anatomy.

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Regardless of her on-screen presence over the past year and a half, Pompeo’s continuing top billing on Grey’s Anatomy has reflected the fact that her character Meredith remains the heart of the show.

“We have to let her go and do some other things, but she’s still our queen. She’s still our No. 1,” Grey’s executive producer/director/recurring guest star Debbie Allen said of Pompeo in December.

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As for what is in store for Meredith next season, her career is at crossroads after she defied her boss and head of the Catherine Fox Foundation (Allen) by refusing to give up her controversial Alzheimer’s research and hand all her notes to Koracick. Instead, Meredith published an abstract online.

On the bright side, Meredith’s relationship with Nick (Scott Speedman) got a major boost in the finale after he flew in from Boston to profess his love and she revealed that she had put an offer on the house he had scouted for the two of them and Ellen’s kids to move in together.

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