Fans of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy have become used to a revolving door of cast members. Only four remain from the pilot back in 2005 and that’s natural for a show that’s gone on for 13 seasons. But some moves can be shocking and a major recent one was the announcement that both Jessica Capshaw (Arizona) and Sarah Drew (April) would not be returning for the 14th season. While at first, it sounded like their choice, both actresses soon made it clear they had been fired in a cost-cutting move. It’s led to a huge backlash since fans loved the characters and thought the actresses should be treated better. It reminds fans of how much some characters and their actors left a big hole when they left the show.
But on the flip side, there have been plenty of characters fans are not at all upset to see gone. They were annoying, insulting and just really bad to see on screen. A few cases had actors who are usually very good but given horrible material. A rare case is a character who started out good but then turned bad while others were already poor and turned horrible. They range from main characters to brief ones, characters who just didn’t work out in the worst ways. For every character loss that hurts, there are a couple that don’t. Here are 10 characters fans of Grey’s are more than happy to see leave and five whose losses still hurt badly to show the impact the series has.
15 GLAD: Lauren Boswell (Hilarie Burton)
There’s a very good reason fans despise this character, despite how Hilarie Burton is a very smart and beautiful actress. She showed up late in season 9, bantering with Arizona over coffee. She later showed up at the hospital as a surgeon to help on a case and flirting with Arizona. Arizona tried to defend that she was married only to discover Lauren already knew and didn’t really care.
During a major storm across the hospital, the two finally slept together and needless to say, Callie did not take it very well. They had to put it aside to save some babies but in the aftermath, Lauren just left for her plane, not seeming to care she had destroyed a once-happy marriage. True, Arizona and Callie had issues already but this was still utterly horrible. The fact was that Lauren knew Arizona was married, knew she wouldn’t be around for long but still went ahead seducing her. A true homewrecker who got away with it and fans of the Arizona/Callie relationship loathe her majorly.
14 GLAD: Jason Meyers (Charles Michael Davis)
Grey’s never shies from casting some hot guys and few were hotter than Charles Michael Davis. He showed up in season 9 with a hook-up with Jo and quickly nicknamed “Chest Peckwell” by characters. He proved that by baring his nice body off in a few steamy scenes. He turned out to be an obstetrician at the hospital and soon he and Alex were having a rivalry. Given that fans still hoped that Jo and Alex would get back together, Jason was already not popular. He soon showed he was really a jerk, crowing over being with Jo and ignoring Alex to the point of putting a patient in jeopardy, proving that just because a guy looks great doesn’t mean he’s a catch.
But the kicker was when, during a fight, Jason punched Jo in the face, giving her a black eye. She fled to Alex and when Jason was brought into the ER with serious wounds, everyone naturally assumed Alex did it. Instead, Jo did it and Jason is last seen in his hospital bed warned by Alex not to press charges. After this, Davis would move onto the hit The Originals.
13 GLAD: Ellis Grey (Kate Burton)
There’s no other way to say this: Ellis Grey was a terrible mother. The pilot of the series has Meredith telling folks her mother, whose fame is so great that surgeons speak of her in awe, is just retired. In truth, Ellis has advanced Alzheimer’s and the episode where everyone discovers it is gripping. That same episode also revealed that Ellis had been going behind her husband's back for years with Richard. It was soon clear that Ellis was an incredibly arrogant woman who put her career above all else, even family. Flashbacks show her borderline neglectful of Meredith and not caring too much of her husband.
The moment that galled fans was when Ellis has a brief period of lucidity to catch up with Meredith. Rather than be proud of how far she’s come, Ellis tears into her daughter being “merely ordinary” and how this is a disgrace on Ellis’ name. That’s right, she’s still thinking of just herself and thus almost a relief when she loses her mind again. An alternate reality episode shows an Ellis who never got Alzheimer’s but still refusing to accept she could be flawed, blaming Bailey for a surgery she herself botched. While she respects her mother’s work, Meredith has to admit Ellis was a bad role model and few can disagree.
12 GLAD: Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson)
This was basically the show’s version of the arrogant jock in high school everyone disliked but kept winning. He was hired on by Bailey, impressed hearing his stories of being a war doctor and the fact she never consulted anyone about it was annoying. He and Meredith were soon flirting but it took a turn when Owen made it clear he hated Nathan’s guts. The reason: Nathan had been with someone else besides Owen's sister Megan and she was so upset by it that she took off on a helicopter that crashed with no survivors. The fact Nathan just told Meredith about her death and not what caused it made it worse. The guy just came off slimy as he knew Maggie had feelings for him, but still choosing Meredith.
He was handsome but Henderson never caught on with fans who thought Meredith deserved someone far better for her first post-Derek hookup. It would turn out that Megan was still alive, her return healing the rift between Owen and Nathan. Nathan left Meredith and the hospital to be with her and fans were more than happy to see him go.
11 GLAD: Reed Adamson (Nora Zehetner)
The sixth season of the show began with a pack of new interns coming in with the producers hoping they’d click as a new generation of stars. However, few really worked out due to various issues. Reed was one of the worst of the bunch, an arrogant gal convinced she was already surgical material. Her very first move was to put her stuff into the recently deceased George’s locker, a very easy way to make sure both the characters and the audience resented her off the bat. She played off her “wild upbringing” to excuse her behavior, trying to get in good with Alex and Mark Sloan. There’s also how she threw April under the bus to save herself and no bedside manner at all.
Her ending was wild as in the season finale, a man who blames the hospital for his wife’s death goes on a shooting spree. He tries to find Derek and when Reed arrogantly tells him “I’m a surgeon, not a tour guide,” and then he takes her life. Few were shedding tears however given how unpopular she was.
10 GLAD: Richard Burke (Isaiah ashington)
It’s pretty easy to slam the leaving of Isaiah Washington. His Burke was an intriguing character, a strong man dedicated to his work and tough on his interns. He and Cristina had a good relationship but took a darker turn when she covered up how he was unable to perform surgeries properly due to leftover effects of being wounded. He was cold at times. It was all summed up when he dumped Cristina at the altar, leaving her sobbing in her gorgeous wedding gown on Meredith’s shoulder.
Of course, the reason for his exit was that Washington had caused a massive backlash due to his behavior. While at first rumored, it soon was confirmed that Washington had made various disparaging remarks to T.R. Knight for his preferences on who he loved. He was suspended and later returned but the stories of more tension between them were larger and the show was suffering. They thus had to fire Washington (although he made a one-episode return a few seasons later) and few are crying over his departure which was pretty much deserved.
9 GLAD: Ava/Rebecca (Elizabeth Reaser)
A major storyline for the third season of the show was when a ferry crash brought in dozens of patients. One was a pregnant woman with a badly crushed face and Alex led her surgery. The crash caused her to lose her memory and she took on the name of Ava. With a newly restored face, she would give birth and she and Alex clearly bonding. Eventually, Alex realized Ava had regained her memories but faking still having amnesia because she liked being with him. Her real name was Rebecca and she left to be with her husband.
But she came back and she and Alex soon started a relationship. He was working two jobs for money in preparation for them being together. However, it turned out Rebecca had some serious mental problems, basically stalking Alex and after a series of unfortunate events, she had to be transferred to the floor of the hospital that dealt with mental issues. A good character at first who turned into a twisted mess and dragged the show down majorly.
8 GLAD: Eliza Minnick (Marika Dominczyk)
Few things are more annoying than some new hire at your job who tries to “improve” things and makes it worse. Somehow, the writers thought that could work for Grey’s in the form of Eliza Minnick. The character was introduced in season 13 as a special doctor brought in to boost up the surgical program. She was quite appealing and she and Arizona were quickly in a relationship. However, Eliza could also be domineering and obtrusive such as putting herself in as many surgeries as possible to judge the doctors. They didn’t take it well, this stranger telling them what to do when many had been at this for years. Eliza was also a ridiculously by the book person to the point of trying to suspend doctors who had saved lives just because it was against protocol. This cost her as in the big season-finale fire, she nearly got Stephanie killed by not telling police she was in the building because she was following the rules getting patients out first. Bailey tore into her for this and fired her, saying they needed doctors who put lives ahead of rules “and not robots.”
Rather than admit the mistake, Eliza whined about her being in the wrong. Arizona tried to support her but Eliza just left town without even a note to solidify her jerk behavior. A case of a good actress but one very lousy character.
7 GLAD: Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl)
It still amazes fans that Katherine Heigl is the one cast member to gain an Emmy. To be fair, her Izzie was a fun character at first, a gorgeous lady but dedicated to a surgeon’s life. A great scene is her being mocked for her past as a lingerie model but she smugly points out that this “shameful” job has totally paid off her medical school debts. She had good arcs and great chemistry with the cast and some fun stuff. The storyline of her love for Danny was very well done and you can’t blame her for the terrible aftermath of her “haunted” by his ghost.
But Heigl’s ego soon led to major clashes as her move to hit movies began making the show secondary. Izzie was soon coming off judgmental, being rude to her lovers, arrogant and more. The fans turned on her, so when she left, it was to a massive relief. It’s a shame as the early Izzie was fun but turned into a much hated character.
6 GLAD: Sadie Harris (Melissa George)
She is the Scrappy-Doo of Grey’s Anatomy. Introduced in the fifth season, Sadie was an old friend of Meredith’s, the two having a good bond and Sadie pushed hard. The idea was her to be around for at least 8 to 11 episodes and possibly becoming a regular. However, while Melissa George was a fun actress, the role was just terrible. Sadie was supposed to be sassy and fun but came off incredibly arrogant and wildly annoying. Her “maverick” attitude was pure insane, such as encouraging the interns to “practice” surgeries on themselves and her leanings for who she liked also came off too wild. At one point, George speaks for the audience by telling Meredith “I can’t see how you two were ever friends.”
The writers have openly admitted that they went too far trying to make Sadie a “wild card” and it turned fans on her. Thus, after just a few episodes, Sadie was written off in a rather humiliating manner. When she’s unable to handle a simple procedure, it turns out she cheated her way into the program and has no business being a surgeon. Amazingly, she expects Meredith to join her “like old times” and Meredith rips into Sadie for never growing up. So many bad docs have passed through the doors of the hospital but Sadie has to be the worst.
5 CRYING OVER: Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez)
Callie’s entry was interesting. When George breaks his arm after his disastrous one-night stand with Meredith, Callie is there to help him heal. She soon gets close to him and it’s Izzie who marvels “George is her McDreamy.” Tony winner Sara Ramirez fit in well with a fun style and humor, proud of her curves and a sassy attitude. She later got married to George. It ended with him going behind her back with Izzie and Callie soon found herself drawn to Arizona. This led to a big bit as her overtly Catholic father cut her off for being with a woman and Callie adjusting to actually working on her hospital salary. But she and Arizona continued on a great relationship and marriage, complete with a child.
They had their issues as Arizona never got over how Callie had to amputate her leg following a plane crash to save her life. When Arizona was unfaithful, that was the final straw for the marriage. But they kept up as friends and even happy to see the other dating. Eventually, Callie decided to move to New York with new love Penny and, after a brief resistance, Arizona lets her take their daughter with her. With her beauty and amazing charm, Ramirez made the role a groundbreaker for many fans and thus they’re sad to see her go.
4 CRYING OVER: Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh)
During her defenses over killing off Derek, Shonda Rhimes said she was taken aback at the views of the show and the fans who were “unable to continue” without him. As far as she was concerned, she’d thought the show wouldn’t continue without Cristina. The character could have been so easy to hate: An insufferable genius convinced she was the best (she refuses to let her interns do any work as she’s convinced they can’t handle it), an ice queen, a woman who chooses her career over having a kid, blunt and sarcastic to a fault and just a total jerk a lot. And yet, Sandra Oh’s performance won folks over with her great performance, showing real depths and warmth to Cristina. She and Meredith had a fantastic bond to the point where Rhimes has said Cristina, not Derek, is Meredith’s soulmate.
The exit of the character hurt a lot of fans as she had a special vibe that made the show work so well. Rhimes is amazed at complaints of Cristina not getting married as it was clear that wasn’t her first love, surgery was. Indeed, she’s last seen in a high-tech clinic overseas which is the happy ending she’s always wanted yet fans miss her terribly.
3 CRYING OVER: George O’Malley (T.R. Knight)
Poor, poor George O’Malley. His time on the show was like watching a dog get kicked over and over. His very first day, he nearly takes the life of a patient and is mocked for it. After a season of crushing on Meredith, he finally sleeps with her…only to have her declare it was a mistake. He marries Callie but goes around with Izzie behind her back. He fails his surgical exams and thus has to remain an intern while the others become full doctors. His own family makes fun of him just before he’s unable to save his father’s life. Yet through it all, T.R. Knight’s performance won fans over so they had to appreciate George and his struggles.
His warm performance won over fans and it looked like he was getting a good exit by joining the army. But in the shocking final scene of the fifth season, Meredith realizes the horribly mangled bus crash victim they’ve been trying to save is George. Even his end had to be harsh which makes his exit more painful.
2 CRYING OVER: Mark and Lexie (Eric Dane and Chyler Leigh)
They both entered under rough circumstances but won over fans. Mark Sloan was the slick surgeon who turned out to have been sleeping with his best friend’s wife. But Eric Dane soon had female viewers swooning as “McSteamy” (so named for coming out of a shower) and a good guy. He was established as a bed-hopper and being with so many women that one episode even focuses on that, as Bailey has to call a meeting to address it. Meanwhile, Lexie Grey was introduced as Meredith’s half-sister, raised by their dad and the two often clashing on their different lives. Yet they were sisters and continued to work together and handle the ups and downs with Chyler Leigh showing a fun charm.
Lexie and Mark were soon hooking up and fans loved the transition of Mark going around and doing whatever he wanted to falling madly in love. Again, there were ups and downs in the relationship, each doing terrible things to the other and calling it quits. But this just made it more heartbreaking when they were among the doctors on a plane that crashed in the forest. Unable to move, Lexie soon passed because of her injuries, her last words to tell Mark she loved him and he shared the feeling. Mark seemed okay but later passed due to his own injuries, the two finally reunited in the afterlife but many fans still wish they’d gotten a happier ending.
1 CRYING OVER: Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey)
It’s hard to not miss this guy. The entire series kicks off with Meredith waking up from a one-night stand she had with a hot guy at the bar. She’s naturally rocked to discover this is Derek Shepherd, the head doctor of the interns. At first, they try to be professional but soon are hooking up regularly. This leads to the stunning final scene of the first season when Derek’s wife Addison comes to town. For a time, he and Meredith are distant but eventually are able to get back together. Finally married with kids, they seem to be doing great with Derek always strong, capable and there for his wife even in hard times.
Which was why it was so shocking when, while helping people at a car crash, Derek himself is hit. A horrifying sequence has him trapped in his own body and noting how the surgeons are making some mistakes. In the end, Meredith has to shut down the machines as he’s brain dead. To write him off like this was a huge shock as Dempsey didn’t know it was coming either. The show has continued but fans insist it’s not the same as he was so important to show’s mythos.