Though it’s been nearly two years since Grey’s Anatomy veteran Jessica Capshaw — who played actual veteran and pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins on the long-running medical drama — left the show following a nine-season run in 2018, it looks like there’s still plenty of controversy over the decision to write her character off of the prime-time show. Part of this seems due to timing: As Capshaw’s former castmate Ellen Pompeo, who plays the ABC drama’s titular Meredith Grey, noted in a March 2018 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, news of the producers’ decision to say goodbye to Capshaw (as well as ex-cast member Sarah Drew) unfortunately came shortly after Pompeo revealed a salary bump, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, in January 2018.
This sequence of events led fans of the show and followers of Capshaw and Drew to conclude that Pompeo’s large salary, which made her the highest-paid actress for a dramatic TV show at the time, was in direct correlation with the choice to let both of her co-stars go. The truth, however, is a little more complicated. Read on after the jump to find out the real reason Jessica Capshaw left Grey’s Anatomy — and why some fans don’t even realize that she said goodbye to the show at all.
Jessica Capshaw left Grey's Anatomy in 2018 due to the writers focusing on other characters
Though some fans linked the decision on the part of Grey’s Anatomy’s producers to write Jessica Capshaw off the show following an expansive contract renewal with ABC, others failed to notice that it coincided with not only Ellen Pompeo’s decision to remain on Grey’s Anatomy with the caveat of a pay bump but also a revival of the discussion around pay inequity and gender within the entertainment industry as well. (According to a December 2019 piece published by The Conversation, one study found that the highest-paid women in Hollywood in 2017 averaged a salary of $21.8 million, as opposed to an average of $57.4 million for men.)
Following the advice of show creator and industry mogul Shonda Rhimes, who purportedly told Pompeo to “decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth,” per The Hollywood Reporter, Pompeo successfully renegotiated her salary at more than $20 million per year. Unfortunately for the actress, Grey’s viewers in turn blamed Capshaw’s axing on budgetary constraints, which Pompeo vehemently denied.
“I mean, I’m not involved in these kind of decisions, however, there’s a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons, Pompeo said in a March 2018 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “One of them is the writers have a really hard time creatively thinking up new stories for all these characters.”
According to Jessica Capshaw, some fans still don't realize she left Grey's Anatomy
Though resentment over Jessica Capshaw’s exit from Grey’s Anatomy in 2018 might still be harbored by a faction of the show’s fans, Capshaw herself seems to hold none — and according to the 44-year-old actress, some fans of her character Arizona Robbins don’t even realize that the character said goodbye to the halls of Seattle’s Grey Sloane Memorial Hospital nearly two years ago.
“It’s funny, and sort of ironic, that the first movie that I would do post-Grey’s Anatomy is on Netflix, when that streaming platform is almost singularly the reason why fans still think I’m on Grey’s.” Capshaw remarked in an October 2020 interview with Metro during a junket to promote her new Netflix movie Holidate, which debuted on October 28. “So some people just think of you that way.”
Capshaw also commented on how the streaming platform has breathed new life into the fandom of Grey’s Anatomy, a show which premiered in March 2005. “Netflix has given birth to this whole [other] generation of Grey’s viewers and the funniest part of it is that I haven’t been on the show for two years but nobody knows that,” Capshaw added.
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