Grey’s Anatomy Cast: Off-Screen SecretsPublished on March 16, 2016. Updated November 6, 2020
For many years now Grey’s Anatomy has remained one of the top shows on television and the cornerstone to Shonda Rhimes’ highly successful Shondaland brand. Over the years fans have watched all of the ups and downs, good episodes and bad and all of the endless drama to happen to the characters on the show. While Grey’s has been highly entertaining with all of its shocking moments over the years, it seems the drama and scandal has found its way off-screen a time or two (or 12). With such a large cast and a revolving door of recurring characters, Grey’s Anatomy has quite the mix of people and personalities that sometimes don’t mix very well…or sometimes mix too well. Check out 12 shocking off-screen scandals involving the Grey’s Anatomy cast and crew.
12. Justin Chambers Affair Rumors
Justin Chambers was the second longest running actor on the show right behind star Ellen Pompeo. Although his character Dr. Alex Karev had gone from a sleazy womanizer to a mature and well-liked doctor, Justin Chambers found himself in the center of a inappropriate scandal that sounds more like Karev. Back in 2014 rumors flew that Chambers was getting a little too close to his co-star Camilla Luddington who plays Jo Wilson. Reports from tabloids suggested that the two were seen kissing at a Los Angeles bar and holding hands. Other outlets and their reps were quick to deny the reports as Chambers has been happily married to his wife Keisha Chambers for 23 years and they share five children.
11. Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey
As one of TV’s most iconic on-screen couples, many thought that Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey would be incredibly close, but after Dempsey’s departure from the show, Pompeo has hinted that things weren’t actually that great between them off set. In 2016, many were surprised that instead of lamenting his absence on the show while on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Pompeo instead said, ““It’s amazing how much you get done without a penis.” Two years later, after receiving a major raise for the show, the actress revealed that their working relationship was actually strained because the network used Dempsey against her, and Dempsey had no interest on leveraging their combined star-power to benefit them both. “For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise. They could always use him as leverage against me — ‘We don’t need you; we have Patrick’ — which they did for years. I don’t know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that,” she revealed. She added, “I could have walked away, so why didn’t I?…You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'” In the end, although disappointing, it was entirely surprising when in late 2018 Pompeo confirmed she hasn’t spoken to Dempsey since he left the show, making it clear there was no special friendship or bond off-screen over their 11 year run together.
10. Goodbye Arizona and April
Shockwaves were sent through Grey’s Anatomy‘s massive fandom in early March 2018 when it was reported that two longtime stars would be leaving the show. While characters coming and going is nothing new for the series, it was then confirmed that Jessica Capshaw who portrayed Arizona Robbins for 10 seasons, and Sara Drew who portrayed April Kepner for 9, had actually been let go from the show, and fans sensed trouble. While Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff said there was no hard feelings, it was simply that the storylines had run out for the the two characters, but a few months later Sarah Drew revealed there was no warning it was coming. “I was let go during an episode where I was shadowing Kevin McKidd [who stars as Owen and regularly directs episodes]. It was in the afternoon and I went back to my trailer and I did my crying and called my people,” she said. “I was told that the show had too many characters and that they needed to downsize because they couldn’t service all of the characters effectively. They didn’t want any of us to be left in the background and not getting much of a story. Because there were so many series regulars, they needed to downsize and to find some characters that they felt like they could tie up their stories well.” Regardless, two major stars being let go from TV’s biggest show is sure to stir up drama.
9. Cultural Impact
It is no surprise that Grey’s has become a pop culture phenomenon due to its popularity, however that isn’t always a good thing. While the show is not a reality series, many have taken it to heart which has resulted in a skewed view of the lives of interns and doctors, as well as an increase in people acting out based on what they have “learned” from the show. There have been reports of people rushing into action when someone is in medical distress because of what they learned on Grey’s. Even with the best intentions, this can often be dangerous. Meanwhile, real life doctors and interns have not appreciated the perception of themselves, their lives and their work because of the show. “You are just dragging your butt, trying to stay alive. You don’t have time to do your hair. You don’t have time to put on makeup. Every surgical intern has bags under their eyes,” Resident doctor Karen Zink said about the show.
8. Eric Dane’s Sex Tape
McSteamy indeed! Eric Dane is a well known actor and family man but he was also embroiled in some scandals and drama during the time he was on Grey’s. Back in 2009, a blog site got a hold of and released a nude tape that involved Dane, his wife Rebecca Gayheart and former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche. The two quickly sued Gawker for the release of the video but not before it went viral on the internet. Dane then made headlines again in 2011, a year before his Grey’s exit, when he entered a rehab facility in Los Angeles admitting he had formed an addiction to painkillers after a sports injury.
7. Patrick Dempsey Affair Rumors
Patrick Dempsey’s exit from Grey’s after being the star for the show’s entire run was shocking and disappointing to many, but the reports that followed were even more shocking. After the news that his character was in fact killed off of the show it was reported that part of the reason was because he had been having an affair on the set of the show with a younger woman who worked on set. At the time sources told tabloids, “It was obvious to everyone Patrick was [sleeping with] her. It got very messy and emotional on set and became a huge liability.” According to those sources the alleged affair then changed Dempsey’s attitude on set and the whole situation went strongly against Shonda Rhimes’ self-proclaimed “no BS” rule causing her to cut his contract short on the show. Dempsey’s rep adamantly denied the story yet shortly after Dempsey’s wife of 15 years filed for divorce. After he was off the show and off the set it, it seems the two have been able to rebuild their relationship which points to Grey’s being some sort of factor in the unraveling of their marriage.
6. Shonda Hints At Firing Patrick
Over the years it has become abundantly clear that Shonda Rhimes does not deal with divas, bad attitudes or anything that creates drama on her sets. In an interview shortly after the exit of Dempsey, Rhimes admitted that she had killed off characters before because she didn’t like the actor, and while many, many people had been killed off her shows, particular Grey’s by that time, the timing so close to Dr. Derek Shepherd’s death had many thinking she was talking about Dempsey. He then added to the drama when he responded in his own interview saying, “I think she loves being provocative and that’s fine for who she is. That gets people talking about all the stuff that she’s doing.”
5. Shonda Rhimes vs. The Cast
While there have been rumors about difficult stars on the cast of the show, it all seems to come back to Shonda Rhimes. Along with her questionable remarks about Katherine Heigl and Patrick Dempsey, it seems T.R. Knight who portrayed George O’Malley also had issues with Rhimes. The actor revealed that he became frustrated by his lack of screen time and it led to a “breakdown of communication” with Rhimes. “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George],” he said. “And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that.” Additionally, prior to Shepherd’s shocking exit, there are reports that Rhimes actually had the star suspended. “Patrick has been acting like a diva and has clashed with Shonda,” a Page Six source reported at the time. “She suspended him for a while, and the word on set is that he isn’t coming back full time.”
4. Katherine Heigl Slams Writing
Katherine Heigl’s saga on Grey’s Anatomy has now become infamous, yet still shocking every time it comes up. In 2007 Heigl won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Izzie Stevens in Grey’s but in the following years she caused waves when she refused to put her name in for the 2008 Emmys, and did so by slamming the writers of the show which included Shonda Rhimes. Heigl said she didn’t deserve a nomination because the writers hadn’t given her character enough quality content to “warrant an Emmy nomination.” The direct dig at the show that made her famous became a huge source of conflict, and started a whole new reputation for the actress as stuck-up, ungrateful and diva-like. She managed to last a few more years on Grey’s but finally exited the show in 2010.
3. Ellen Pompeo’s Massive Raise
Only months before it was confirmed that Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw had been let go from the show, Ellen Pompeo revealed she had signed a massive new deal worth a reported $20 million. Consequently it didn’t take long for many to insist that the real reason Drew and Capshaw were let go was in order to put their salaries towards paying Pompeo. The report from Deadline caused a lot of drama, and Pompeo tweeted, “Its unfortunate that @DEADLINE chooses to try to pit women against each other on #InternationalWomensDay #shameonyounotme,” she tweeted. “I’m a big girl @DEADLINE can take shots at me if they want but to the fans please don’t fall into that trap. This is above my pay grade.” Meanwhile Grey’s co-showrunner Krista Vernoff also responded to the Deadline article, writing, “The suggestion in the Deadline article that our cast changes are in any way related to Ellen Pompeo‘s salary renegotiation is wrong and hurtful and misguided. It smacks of an old, broken, patriarchal notion that women must be pitted against each other and that one woman’s success will be costly to others.” Despite their adamant objections that Pompeo’s raise had anything to do with the other two actress’s firing, many still believe that it played a part.
2. Isaiah Washington’s Homophobic Slur
Back in 2007 another one of the show’s biggest stars left the show after Isaiah Washington who portrayed Dr. Preston Burke used homophobic slurs twice in public. He first used the slur on set of Grey’s when he got in an argument with co-star T.R. Knight and called him a “f–ot,” which was bad enough but afterwards Knight came out as gay. Washington then used the slur again backstage at the Golden Globes when he was trying to defend himself, which caused heavy backlash and caused him to be fired from the show, and essentially destroyed his acting career.
1. Shonda Rhimes Slams Katherine Heigl
It is clear that Shonda Rhimes does not sugarcoat things or hold back her true feelings but it was still shocking when she outright slammed former Grey’s star Katherine Heigl years after the drama of Heigl denying her Emmys nod and eventually leaving the show. When discussing her then new show Scandal in 2014, Rhimes said that she had learned a lot from the drama of working on Grey’s stating it had caused her to implement a “No a–holes policy.” “I don’t put up with bulls–t or nasty people. I don’t have time for it.” She then said she made sure to know exactly what kind of cast she was working with, calling out Heigl directly, “There are no Heigls in this situation.” Ouch!