You're going to want to sit down for this one.
Just a few weeks ahead of the season 17 premiere of Grey's Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo crushed our medical fantasy dreams and revealed the beloved series could officially call this upcoming season its last. In a new cover story for Variety's Power of Women issue, the 50-year-old posed next to her esteemed co-star Debbie Allen plus showrunner Krista Vernoff and director-actor Chandra Wilson as she discussed what to expect from the show this fall while reflecting on its legacy.
Though Pompeo has teased the end of Grey's before, this sounds sort of finite. "We don't know when the show is really ending yet. But the truth is, this year could be it," she said. Of course, hanging up her Meredith Grey hat—one she's worn since 2005—wouldn't be easy.
"I don't take the decision lightly. We employ a lot of people and we have a huge platform," she said. "And I'm very grateful for it. You know, I'm just weighing out creatively what we can do. I'm really, really, really excited about this season. It's probably going to be one of our best seasons ever. And I know that sounds nuts to say, but it's true."
That just might not be hyperbole considering season 17 will tackle one of the most lethal medical issues: the coronavirus. "I'll say the pilot episode to this season—girl, hold on," she said. "What nobody thinks we can continue to do, we have done. Hold on. That's all we're going to say about that!"
Pompeo is recognized for her respectable negotiation skills—she makes over $20 million a year—and, as Variety pointed out, speaking about the end of the show publicly could be used to leverage a better contract (hers is up this year). To that, she said, "There's your sound bite! There's your clickbait! ABC's on the phone!"
Regardless of whether the show ends or lasts for several more years, Pompeo is proud of what she's accomplished.
"The show, at its core, brings people together," she said. "And the fact that people can come together and watch the show, and think about things they may not have ordinarily thought about, or see things normalized and humanized in a way that a lot of people really need to see—it helps you become a better human being. If this show has helped anybody become a better human being, then that's the legacy I'd love to sit with."
Season 17 of Grey's Anatomy premieres during a two-hour event on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ABC.