Here’s the Real Reason Sarah Drew Left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’—& Why She Came Back

"Grey's Anatomy"
Photo: Ron Tom/©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection.

With the news of Sarah Drew’s returns, fans are wondering: Why did April leave Grey’s Anatomy and why is she back? Drew, who played Dr. April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy from seasons 6 to 14, left the series in 2018.

In the episode before the season 14 finale, April has a near-fatal accident after her ex-fiancé’s car rolls into a ravine with both of them in it. Unconscious, April is taken to Seattle Grace Memorial, where the doctors, including her ex-boyfriend Jackson Avery, work to keep her alive. At the end of the episode, April wakes up but something has changed in her. In the finale, April reveals that she’s quit her job as a trauma surgeon at Seattle Grace and now does medical work for the homeless. The episode also sees April and Matthew marry after a surprise re-engagement. That’s the last time Grey’s Anatomy fans saw April…until season 17 when she came back for a cameo on May 6.

The cameo led to tons of questions from Grey’s Anatomy fans, but the main one is why the heck did April leave Grey’s Anatomy in the first place. Ahead is what we know about why Drew quit Grey’s Anatomy and why she decided to come back.

Why did April leave Grey’s Anatomy?

Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff told Deadline in 2018 that Drew and Jessica Capshaw’s (Arizona Robbins) exits rom the series in season 14 were based completely on “creative direction.” “The characters of Arizona and April are permanently woven into the fabric of Grey’s Anatomy thanks to the extraordinary work of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew,” she said at the time. “As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses.”

Shonda Rhimes also commented on the characters’ exits at the time: “It’s always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters. Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic—both the LBGTQ and devout Christian communities are underrepresented on TV,” she said. “I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family.”

After the news, there was speculation that Drew and Capshaw left Grey’s anatomy because of Ellen Pompeo’s (Meredith Grey) new deal with ABC, which would pay her $20 million per season. Vernoff denied the speculation at the time in a tweet. “It smacks of an old, broken, patriarchal notion that women must be pitted against each other and that one woman’s success will be costly to others,” she wrote, noting that Pompeo has “advocated passionately” for her cast members throughout the show. “The only thing a constant on Grey’s Anatomy as Ellen Pompeo is our penchant for reinvention. It is part of our success and what keeps the show exciting.”

As for Drew, she hinted in her own Twitter statement that the decision for April to leave Grey’s Anatomy wasn’t her choice. “Thank you for all of the love. I know you’re sad. I’m sad too. I haven’t really had the time to process this information. I’ve been with it for less than 48 hours, so I’m not ready to say my thank yous and give an all encompassing statement about my 9 years here,” she wrote. “That will come later 🙂 For now, I’d like to say: I love you, and I love April, and her story isn’t over yet. And the really good news (for me, at least) is that I’m here on set shadowing one of my favorite people, Kevin McKidd, with my beloved Grey’s family all this week and next, so I get to process all of my feelings surrounded by the community that has nourished and nurtured me for almost a decade. For that, I am so grateful. Much love, Sarah.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in 2020, Drew confirmed she has no bad blood with Grey’s Anatomy .”That’s a hard question to answer because nobody has asked me to come back, so I can’t answer that,” she said at the time of a potential return. “All I will say is that I love my family over there, so I would never say no to the possibility, but it has not presented itself.”

She also told ET that she thinks April and Jackson are “end game.” “If it were up to me, they would have been the end game,” she said. “That’s if it were up to me, but, you know, it’s not up to me.”

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