EXCLUSIVE: A seismic change at the helm of ABC’s top drama franchise is coming: Krista Vernoff will be stepping down as executive producer and showrunner of Shondaland’s Grey’s Anatomy and spin off Station 19 at the end of this season — Grey’s Anatomy‘s 19th year Station 19‘s sixth.
“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to be entrusted to run Grey’s Anatomy for the past six years and Station 19 for the last four,” Vernoff said in a statement to Deadline. “The passion of the dedicated fandoms and the impact that these shows have on hearts and minds cannot be overstated. The amount of talent in these two extraordinary casts and these two brilliant writers rooms is beyond measure — and these crews work magic week after week.”
After working on the first seven seasons of Grey’s Anatomyrising to head writer and executive producer, Vernoff returned to the medical drama as executive producer and showrunner at the start of Season 14 in 2017 and has led the show’s recent resurgence.
Since adding Station 19 to her purview in 2019, Vernoff has strengthened the two series’ ties, building an integrated universe highlighted by frequent crossovers. In the first season after Vernoff took over Station 19, the drama improved its year-over-year ratings by double digits, a virtually impossible task amid steadily declining linear viewership.
“Krista Vernoff has poured her heart and soul into Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19, and her voice has been pivotal to the success of these beloved series,” said Craig Erwich, President, ABC Entertainment, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals. “It takes a formidable leader to run two shows simultaneously and Krista has done so effortlessly. Her creative force has left an indelible mark and thanks to her, our viewers will continue to be invested in these dynamic and cherished characters for many years to come.”
After creator, executive producer and original showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who remains a creative force on the hugely popular series, Vernoff has been arguably the most influential writer-producer on Grey’s Anatomy over its 19-season run to date. She was behind the dream beach motif during the Covid-themed Season 17, which brought back several beloved Grey’s characters, led by Patrick Dempsey’s Derek, and put the series back in the center of the cultural zeitgeist.
“Krista’s creativity, vision and dedicated leadership have allowed Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 to continue to flourish,” Rhimes said. “I am incredibly grateful to her for all her hard work. She will always remain part of the Shondaland family.”
Vernoff also acknowledged her mentor and the companies behind the series. “I will be forever grateful to Shonda Rhimes for her trust and to Disney and ABC for their support,” she said.
The writer-producer has been under an overall deal at Grey’s and Station 19 studio ABC Signature since she returned to Grey’s five and a half years ago and will continue to develop through her company Trip the Light Productions, with several projects already in the works, including one at Hulu, I hear.
The succession plan for Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 is still being finalized, with deals currently being hammered out contingent on the shows getting renewed for next season, which is considered a safe bet based on their performance.
I hear Grey’s Anatomy veteran Meg Marinis, who has been on the show since the very beginning, rising from a researcher all the way to executive producer, is tipped to succeed Vernoff as showrunner on the medical drama.
Fellow Grey’s Anatomy exec producer Zoanne Clack, MD, MPH, who had added executive producer and head writer duties on spinoff Station 19 under Vernoff, would become co-showrunner of the first-responders drama, sources said. I hear she would share the role with The Fosters and Good Trouble co-creator Peter Paige, co-showrunner on the mothership series and showrunner on the spinoff, who has done a stint on Station 19 as a consulting producer.
This would mark the second promotion in six months for Clack. She joined Station 19 in August amid an upheaval in the series’ writers’ room following an incident involving racial slur use by a racist character in a draft of an outline which exposed long-simmering racial issues on the show. At the time, Clack also remained an executive producer on Grey’s.
This marks the second big Grey’s Anatomy departure this season; star/executive producer Ellen Pompeo is bidding farewell as a full-time cast member in the Feb. 23 midseason premiere episode, “I’ll Follow the Sun” which was written by Vernoff. Pompeo will return for the Season 19 finale, which also will mark Vernoff’s final Grey’s episode — at least for now, as the showrunner is not ruling out a second return.
“The last time I left Grey’s Anatomy, I was gone for seven seasons and the show was still going when Shonda called me to run it,” she said. “So I’m not saying goodbye because that would be too bitter sweet. I’m saying ‘See you in seven seasons.’”
Rosy Cordero contributed to this report.