Ellen Pompeo, the star of TV's longest-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy, thanked fans on social media Thursday as she prepares to leave the cast of the hit series after almost two decades as Meredith Grey.
"I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!" Pompeo wrote on Instagram. "Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world. You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!!"
ABC teased the 53-year-old actor's departure following last week's fall finale; the show will be back Feb. 23 for a "Meredith leaves Seattle" episode in which she's seen saying goodbye. Deadline reported earlier this year that Pompeo, who has played the show's titular character since it began in 2005, planned to scale back her appearances this season.
With other longtime cast members leaving the show in recent years (Jesse Williams, Justin Chambers, Patrick Dempsey, and Sandra Oh, to name a few), it really seemed like only a matter of time before Pompeo would also move on. At the end of the 18th season, Pompeo's Grey decided not to leave Seattle for a new job in Minnesota and instead became interim chief of surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial.
In recent episodes, Grey decides to move to Boston after her daughter falls in love with a school there and Jackson Avery (Williams) offers her a job to research a cure for Alzheimer's.
But like other former full-time cast members, Pompeo is expected to come back for guest appearances on the show. Along with Williams, Kate Walsh, who plays Addison Montgomery and who starred in the Grey's spinoff Private Practice, has appeared in multiple episodes this season.
"This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster," Pompeo wrote, "you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit."
Grey's has not yet been renewed for a 20th season, but Deadline reported that it's likely to be, and show creator Shonda Rhimes said as much in her farewell Instagram post to Pompeo.
"What a wild ride these past 19 seasons have been," Rhimes wrote. "None of it could have been possible without the incomparable @ellenpompeo, the one and only Meredith Grey. In true #greysanatomy fashion…this isn’t a goodbye, it’s a see ya later! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ellen, Meredith and Grey Sloan Memorial."