Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens Jr., along with other original cast members, have all signed new deals to return to the flagship drama, with spinoff ‘Station 19’ also receiving a season five renewal for the 2021-22 broadcast season.
Following lengthy negotiations, ABC has renewed its flagship drama for an 18th season after star and executive producer Ellen Pompeo signed a lucrative new contract to return to the Shondaland hit. Original cast members Chandra Wilson (Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard) have both signed new contracts to return for season 18. Grey’s Anatomy’s firefighter spinoff Station 19, which will return for its fifth season in 2021-22, will also be back on ABC’s schedule.
Although financial details of Pompeo’s new contract were not immediately available, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the actress who played Dr. Meredith Grey has gotten another raise, and she is still the highest-paid actress in a primetime drama series on broadcast television. Wilson and Pickens are said to have gotten significant pay raises for season 18.
Grey’s Anatomy’s future has yet to be determined beyond season 18.
The Grey’s renewal had been in the works for some time, but was further delayed by Wilson and Pickens’ deals. Grey’s Anatomy was approaching the end of its shortened 17th season, with an uncertain future. In March, showrunner Krista Vernoff told THR that she was “planning a season and a finale that could act as either a season finale or a series finale,” referring to her latest overall deal with producers ABC Signature. Vernoff said the situation was “hard and not perfect” and that she had asked Disney for a response one way or the other before filming the episode in a season where COVID-19 has topped the call sheet.
Disney, the parent company of ABC, and Pompeo had been in talks for months. Pompeo signed a new contract in late 2017 that paid her $20 million per year, making her the highest-paid actress in a primetime drama series on television. Seasons 15 and 16 of the show were covered under that deal, with ABC extending the option to cover the upcoming 17th season as part of the two-year deal in 2019. Pompeo, who recently spoke out in a THR cover storey about fighting for the pay she received in the hopes of encouraging other women in the industry to do the same, requested a raise as part of the renewal talks.
“Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy have done an excellent job of celebrating real-life heroes by offering viewers an unflinching look at one of the most important medical stories of our time,” said Craig Erwich, president of originals at Hulu Originals, who recently added ABC Entertainment to his responsibilities. “Krista and her team of writers have continued to provide the engaging and caring storytelling that has become a hallmark of these series, and have provided some of the most talked-about television moments of the year.We’re grateful to our amazing casts and crews for their incredible work that reaches audiences around the world, and we can’t wait to share even more memorable moments with our fans next season.”
Grey’s Anatomy, now in its 17th season, continues to be a huge asset for ABC and Disney. The show is broadcast’s top entertainment series in the 18-49 demographic, as well as ABC’s top drama series in both total viewers and the advertiser-coveted demo. Grey’s Anatomy averages more than 15 million total viewers and 6.18 in the demo with delayed viewing, up 4% from season 16. The series has since become a global phenomenon, with episodes airing all over the world. It’s also become a cash cow thanks to a lucrative Netflix subscription contract, where it’s one of the company’s most popular library titles.
Pompeo executive produces Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 in addition to acting in them. The dramas, which are executive produced by Rhimes’ Shondaland, are the prolific producer’s final projects at ABC before she left for a nine-figure overall contract with Netflix in 2017. (in December she launched her first title for the streamer, breakout hit Bridgerton). Rhimes, who has previously said that Grey’s Anatomy would run as long as Pompeo wanted it to, hand-picked Vernoff to take over showrunning duties. Vernoff served as the showrunner in season 14 after serving as the show’s head writer for the first seven seasons.She also runs Station 19, and in April, she debuted ABC’s Rebel, her first solo series after 13 failed attempts.
“The actors, directors, casts, and crews of Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 put in so much effort this past season to bring these shows to life,” said Vernoff. “It’s been a challenge and a privilege to keep each other healthy on set while paying tribute to the front-line heroes and first responders. I’ve been completely blown away by our tireless crews as they reinvented the television-making wheel. Thank you to ABC and ABC Signature for their incredible support and collaboration during this historic season. We are overjoyed at the prospect of telling more stories.”
The official renewal puts an end to rumours that this will be Grey’s Anatomy’s final season. After initially resisting the idea of incorporating the pandemic into the plot, Vernoff and the Grey’s writers decided to begin the abbreviated 16-episode season at the start of the pandemic, feeling an obligation to depict the world’s worst medical crisis in a realistic and truthful manner.
To that end, Pompeo’s Meredith spent the majority of the season fighting COVID-19 in a hospital bed, while also shooting dream-like scenes on a beach to round out the pandemic-related storylines. Grey’s Anatomy brought back Patrick Dempsey — reuniting Meredith with her late husband, Derek — T.R. Knight (George), Eric Dane (Mark), and Chyler Leigh for the beach scenes (Lexie).
Kevin McKidd (Owen), Camilla Luddington (Jo), and Kim Raver (Teddy) have all signed new deals for the upcoming season of Grey’s Anatomy. Last summer, the latter three signed new deals with ABC that would keep them on the show for a possible 19th season. Despite this, Grey’s Anatomy has lost two series regulars this season, with Jesse Williams (Jackson) announcing his exit and Giacomo Gianniotti (DeLuca) being written off earlier this year.
As ABC starts its formal renewals ahead of its upfront presentation to ad buyers later this month, Grey’s Anatomy joins fellow dramas The Good Doctor and rookie Big Sky as the broadcaster, under new president Erwich, begins its formal renewals.
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