"Ellen and I have a pact that I'm going to do the show as long as she's going to do the show," creator Shonda Rhimes told E! News in 2017. "So, the show will exist as long as both of us want to do it. If she wants to stop, we're stopping. So, I don't know if we'll see 600, but I want to keep it feeling fresh. As long as there are fresh stories to tell and as long as we're both excited about the stories being told, we're in. So, we'll see where that takes us."
In early 2017, Pompeo wasn't ready to say much about the future of the show.
"I don't know. I know that we want to try to...Let's just see. I don't like to take things for granted because you can't just assume that the show can go on forever. It's up to the fans, and the fans will let us know how long they want the show to air."
"I'm clearly not prepared right now to make any formal announcement about what my future is on the show, but I am really feeling like we have told the majority of the stories that we can tell," Pompeo told EW of continuing past season 16, back in September 2018. "It's about time that I mix it up. I'm definitely looking for a change."
"What happened is that I went to Shonda and I said, 'If you're moving on to Netflix and you want the show to go down, I'm cool with that. But if you want it to continue, I need to be incentivized. I need to feel empowered and to feel ownership of this show,'" Pompeo told THR after Rhimes signed a huge deal with Netflix. "And she was like, 'I absolutely want to keep the show going. It's the mothership, so let's find a way to make you happy. What do you want?'"
Current showrunner Krista Vernoff tells E! News that she's waiting to hear from Pompeo and Rhimes.
"My take is that until Ellen and Shonda and ABC tell me together to plan the end, I'm not planning the end. Every few years, Ellen gives an interview where she challenges us to come up with new things to do and then she's like wow, you did it. So who knows? She's an incredible talent. I'm half convinced she does those interviews to light a fire, and it works."
"I take it day by day and season by season," Pompeo told us a month or so after that EW quote first made the rounds.
During a TV Critics Association press conference in January 2019, new ABC president Karey Burke mistakenly said that the show had been renewed through season 16.
"We're thrilled with Grey's Anatomy's performance. I was just over visiting the set this week. And I believe the status is that we are in conversations about continuing the show," she said. "The show was picked up for two seasons. I'm going to have to fact check. Somebody can tell me if I'm wrong...The show was picked up for two seasons last season, so we have another season to go and I'm sure we'll be planning for more."
The show hasn't yet been officially renewed for a 16th season, but if the president is thinking it already has been, we'd be shocked if it didn't find itself renewed. Either way, Ellen Pompeo is contracted through 16.
Aside from Pompeo, three other stars remain from the pilot of the series: James Pickens Jr., Chandra Wilson, and Justin Chambers. In February 2019, Pompeo said that they are also part of the pact she has with Rhimes about when the show will end. "I think we'd like to sort of finish this together," she said. It seems as if they're all in it for the long haul...
When E! News asked how much longer she plans to do the show, Chandra Wilson said in 2017, "Until they tell us to go home. I don't even know what that number means."
Wilson is part of the original four cast members who are still on the show, and she's planning on sticking around, but she's not so sure about trying to beat Gunsmoke's record of 635 episodes.
"I'd have to start over again to get to Gunsmoke! Oh my god. From a historical standpoint, would love to be able to say I was a starter and a finisher. Actors don't get the opportunity to do that. I'd love to have the opportunity to put that personal star to put on my wall. I still enjoy Bailey immensely, I still learn from her. Until the wheels fall off, I guess."
"As many as they want to give me," James Pickens Jr. said of how many more seasons he'll do back in 2017.
In January 2019, he told E! News, "I've had such a great time doing it. To be at this point in my career and still have a job...It's hard to say, maybe it's time to hang up. I'd love it, when it is time, I want to come in and turn off the OR light for the last time and have the show end there."
"A couple more seasons I hope," Justin Chambers told E! News in 2017. "Let's see what happens, but I'm not tired yet of going to work."
In January 2019, Chambers told us, "Let's just do it season to season and go from there." His onscreen wife, Camilla Luddington, offered the one thing she needs to see before the show ends: "I at least want Alex and Jo to have kids and then I'll feel good. If I don't see them have a baby, it would be sad to walk away from that."