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Why Jesse Williams Left Grey’s Anatomy After 12 Seasons Explained

Many Grey’s Anatomy viewers were saddened when fan-favorite character Jackson Avery, played by Jesse Williams, departed from the hit medical drama. Jackson first appeared on Grey’s Anatomy in season 6, and Williams left the ABC series during season 17. On the show, Jackson is a competitive plastic surgeon who does not want to be associated with his grandfather, Harper Avery, the person who inspired the show’s famous Harper Avery Award. Besides his family history, Jackson is most known for his on-again, off-again relationship with trauma surgeon April Kepner (Sarah Drew) which captivated Grey’s Anatomy viewers.

Departing doctors are nothing new for Grey’s Anatomy. In season 17, Jackson decided to move to Boston to help run his mother’s foundation, the Catherine Fox Foundation. Jackson officially leaves for Boston with April in Grey’s Anatomy season 17, episode 15 “Tradition.” In season 18, Jackson returns for the show’s 400th episode with April to convince Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) to stay at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Jackson appears again in two episodes of season 19, this time to help facilitate Meredith’s move to Boston, which gave Pompeo an exit from Grey’s Anatomy.

Jesse Williams Left Grey’s Anatomy To Get Out Of His Comfort Zone & Do Broadway

The Actor Played Darren Lemmings In Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out

Take Me Out won Best Revival of a Play and Williams was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play, showing that his risk in leaving Grey’s Anatomy paid off

While Grey’s Anatomy can be the role of a lifetime for some actors, Jesse Williams decided to leave the show to star in the Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out. The play ran on Broadway from April 2022 until February 2023, and Williams starred in the play alongside Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson. In an interview with The New York Times, Williams opened up a bit about his decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy, saying:

I knew that as I designed my exit, the next thing I did had to be terrifying. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, I needed to go into a very unknown place.

Take Me Out follows the lives of baseball players on the fictional professional team the Empires, and through the lens of professional athletes, it explores themes of homophobia and racism. In Take Me OutWilliams played Darren Lemmings, a player who comes out as gay at the start of the play. At the 75th Tony Awards in 2022, Take Me Out won Best Revival of a Play and Williams was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Play, showing that his risk in leaving Grey’s Anatomy paid off.

Williams Plays Documentarian Tobert In The Murder Mystery Series

Even though Take Me Out concluded its run on Broadway, Williams didn’t show any intention of returning to Grey’s Anatomy outside guest appearances. Williams joined the Only Murders in the Building season 3 cast. Premiering on August 8, 2023, and the season opener introduced Williams’ Tobert. Tobert is a documentarian interested in the murder case of Ben Glenroy.

Williams appearing in the Hulu comedy, along with his recent role as Theo in the Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher-starring Netflix romantic comedy Your Place or Mine shows the actor pivoting away from hefty drama roles. By pursuing more comedic roles, Williams is following through on his intention to make his time away from Grey’s Anatomy worthwhile, as he is continuously finding roles that do not follow Jackson’s network drama and using each project to do something different.

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