‘ Grey’s Anatomy’ hits mile­stone 300th episode

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - Jayme Deerwester

Ellen Pom­peo ( Mered­ith Grey) de­scribes show as a “love let­ter to the orig­i­nal cast.”

Grey’s Anatomy is the sec­ond­longest com­mit­ment of Ellen Pom­peo’s life, sec­ond only to her re­la­tion­ship with hus­band Chris Ivery, whom she started dat­ing 17 years ago.

And both hit ma­jor mile­stones Thurs­day: Her ABC med­i­cal soap — now in its 14th sea­son — marks its 300th episode ( 8 ET/ PT) the same day as their 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary.

“A com­mit­ment- phobe is some­thing no one could call me,” says Pom­peo, who turns 48 Fri­day. Pom­peo plays dark and twisty sur­geon Mered­ith Grey, the brain­child of cre­ator Shonda Rhimes, who an­nounced this sum­mer that she’ll be part­ner­ing with Net­flix for fu­ture pro­jects.

Pom­peo de­scribes the 300th episode as a “love let­ter to the orig­i­nal cast,” of which only three other mem­bers re­main from the di­verse lineup that made the 2005 mid­sea­son re­place­ment an in­stant hit: Chan­dra Wil­son, Justin Cham­bers and James Pick­ens Jr.

Along the way, the ac­tors who played her fel­low Seat­tle Grace in­terns — Kather­ine Heigl, T. R. Knight and San­dra Oh — left the show, some­times in tabloid- ready fash­ion. Ditto for Isa­iah Wash­ing­ton and Pa­trick Dempsey, who played su­per­vi­sors and love in­ter­ests to Pom­peo and Oh’s char­ac­ters, and were writ­ten out after their per­sonal is­sues spilled over into work.

But only one de­par­ture rat­tled Pom­peo: That of Oh, who played Mered­ith’s best friend, Cristina Yang. The cut­throat car­dio­tho­racic sur­geon took a job in Switzer­land in the Sea­son 10 fi­nale.

“I re­ally wor­ried when San­dra Oh left,” she says. “She was such a big part of the show. When the show didn’t suf­fer when she left, then I wasn’t wor­ried when Pa­trick left ( in Sea­son 11). I thought, if noth­ing hap­pened when San­dra left, then I think we’re OK.”

ABC En­ter­tain­ment chief Chan­ning Dungey says the show weath­ered mul­ti­ple cast changes thanks to the pro­ducer’s steady hand.

“She and her writ­ing staff have never been afraid to push bound­aries — they take risks and the au­di­ence fol­lows. Four­teen sea­sons later, Shonda’s pas­sion for these char­ac­ters and her in­vest­ment in this world is as strong as it’s ever been, and that keeps the sto­ry­telling fresh.”

It helps that the show takes place in the high- stakes, life- or- death en­vi­ron­ment of a hos­pi­tal. Grey’s has seen its share of epic dis­as­ters, be­gin­ning with its 2006 Su­per Bowl episode, in which Mered­ith kept a bomb from ex­plod­ing in a pa­tient’s ab­dom­i­nal cav­ity.

“There is noth­ing like a large- scale dis­as­ter to test our char­ac­ters and re­ally amp up the stakes,” says Beers.

Beers cred­its the Su­per Bowl episode with ex­pos­ing “the show to a wide au­di­ence, some of whom then be­came hooked.”

Bombs, plane crashes and love tri­an­gles aside, Pom­peo is proud of what her “silly lit­tle med­i­cal soap” has ac­com­plished.

DEREK JOHN­SON/ ABC

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