Grey’s Anatomy: Jesse Williams’s Reason to Leave after 12 Seasons Explained

Grey’s Anatomy fans were saddened when fan-favorite character Jackson Avery, played by Jesse Williams, departed from the hit medical drama. Jackson first appeared on Grey’s Anatomy in season 6, and Williams left the ABC series during season 17.

On the show, Jackson is a competitive plastic surgeon who does not want to be associated with his grandfather Harper Avery, who inspired the show’s famous Harper Avery Award. Besides his family history, Jackson is most known for his on-again, off-again relationship with trauma surgeon April Kepner, which captivated Grey’s Anatomy viewers.

There were many reasons why Williams decided to leave Grey’s Anatomy. In an interview with The New York Times, Williams said he felt like he was “in a comfort zone” on the show and wanted to experience something new. He also said that he wanted to focus more on his activism off-screen.

“I knew that as I designed my exit, the next thing I did had to be terrifying,” Williams said. “I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I needed to go into an unknown place.”

Here are some of the specific reasons why Jesse Williams left Grey’s Anatomy:

He wanted to challenge himself in new ways. Williams said he felt like he had “reached the ceiling” of what he could do on Grey’s Anatomy. He wanted to take on new challenges and explore different roles.

He wanted to focus on other projects. Williams had been working on several other projects outside of Grey’s Anatomy, including the Broadway play Take Me Out. He wanted to focus on these other projects and give them full attention.

He felt like Grey’s Anatomy was starting to repeat itself. Williams said that the show had become “stagnant” and that he was no longer challenged by his role. He wanted to be a part of a constantly evolving and growing show.

Williams’ decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy was not without its challenges. He had to say goodbye to his castmates, whom he had become close friends with. He also had to deal with the backlash from fans who were upset to see him go.

However, Williams has said that he has no regrets about his decision. He is excited to start this new chapter in his career, and he is grateful for the opportunities that Grey’s Anatomy has given him.

1. Jesse Williams left Grey’s Anatomy to get out of his comfort zone

In an interview promoting his Broadway debut in the Richard Greenberg play “Take Me Out,” in which he stars as Darren Lemming, a fictional baseball star who comes out as gay, Williams explained why he decided to make his Broadway debut soon after leaving “Grey’s.”

“I knew that as I designed my exit, the next thing I did had to be terrifying. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and go into an unknown place.”

Williams wanted his next project to challenge him, is precisely what drew him to “Take Me Out”

Williams’ physical appearance was emphasized during his run on “Grey’s Anatomy.” In one of his first episodes of the show, his character Jackson addressed his looks. “I’m pretty. In my family, I was always the pretty one. My face, my eyes. The body. You should see me with no shirt on. It’s ridiculous,” the character said.

Grey's Anatomy: Jesse Williams's Reason to Leave after 12 Seasons Explained
Sarah Drew, Jesse Williams, and Santiago Segura in Grey’s Anatomy (2005) | Source: IMDb

His former “Grey’s Anatomy” coworkers reiterated the same in the Times’ new profile.

“Yes, he does look like that,” Krista Vernoff, the drama’s current showrunner, said. “And yes, he is brilliant. And talented.”

But Williams said in a joint conversation with former on-screen “Grey’s Anatomy” love interest Sarah Drew in December that the pair worked hard to make a lot of the relationship between Jackson and Drew’s character, Dr. April Kepner, feel deep and authentic.

“We carved a lot of that on our own with tremendous support, but it was not like it had to be that way. We could have been lazier about it,” he told Insider.

Though Williams is not gay like his “Take Me Out” character Darren, he told the Times that he was drawn to the role because he “really wanted the challenge.”

“The last thing I want is to be the shiny rich TV guy that thinks he can just show up and do something because that’s just not how I feel,” he said. “I’m just here to learn.”

Drew told the Times that he’s up for it. “Nobody worked as hard as he did,” she said of their time on the “Grey’s Anatomy” set. “Nobody.”

2. What happened to Jesse’s character on Grey’s Anatomy after he left?

Jesse’s character, Jackson Avery, left Grey’s Anatomy in the season 17 finale. He decided to move to Boston to take over the family foundation. His departure was bittersweet, but it was clear that he was leaving the show on good terms.

3. Will Jesse Williams ever return to Grey’s Anatomy?

Jesse Williams could return to Grey’s Anatomy in the future. He said he would be open to guest-starring on the show, and the door has been left open for his character to return. However, Williams has no current plans to return to the show.

Grey's Anatomy: Jesse Williams's Reason to Leave after 12 Seasons Explained
Sarah Drew, Michael Weaver, Jesse Williams, La Monde Byrd, and Santiago Segura in Grey’s Anatomy (2005) | Source: IMDb

4. What’s next for Jesse Williams?

Jesse Williams Will Appear In Only Murders In The Building Season 3. Only Murders in the Building season 3 is set to premiere on August 8, 2023, and Williams will appear in the new season as Tobert. Not much is known about Tobert other than that he is a documentarian interested in the season’s leading case.

By pursuing more comedic roles, Williams is following through on his intention to make his time away from Grey’s Anatomy worthwhile, as he is continuously finding parts that do not follow Jackson’s network drama and is using each project to do something different.

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5. About Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy is an American medical drama television series that premiered on March 27, 2005, on ABC as a mid-season replacement. The series focuses on the lives of surgical interns, residents, and attendings as they develop into seasoned doctors while balancing personal and professional relationships.

The series revolves around Ellen Pompeo’s character, Dr. Meredith Grey, until halfway through its 19th season, after which it shifts to a more ensemble format, with Pompeo only appearing in 8 episodes of season 19. Grey is first featured as an intern and later becomes the chief of general surgery while showcasing the complications of a surgeon’s life.

Grey’s Anatomy is the longestrunning scripted primetime show currently airing on ABC, and the longest-scripted primetime series carried by ABC. It is considered to have had a significant effect on popular culture and has received numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama, and a total of 38 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including two for Outstanding Drama Series. 


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