Grey's Anatomy co-showrunner Krista Vernoff and star Ellen Pompeo are firing back at suggestions that Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw's shocking exits had anything to do with Pompeo's salary increase.
On Thursday, it was announced that Drew and Capshaw would not be returning after the end of the current 14th season, after having been with the popular ABC medical drama for nearly a decade. Drew joined as Dr. April Kepner in season six, while Capshaw began portraying Dr. Arizona Robbins in season five. Though there was no official reason given as to why they would not be back, one report noted that the departures came just weeks after Pompeo signed a new two-year deal, which included a significant pay increase where she could make upwards of $20 million a year.
Pompeo took to Twitter to dispel any speculation that Drew and Capshaw's exits were connected to her salary, slamming the report and calling it "unfortunate" that the insinuation was made on International Women's Day. "I'm a big girl," Pompeo wrote, saying she "can take shots" directed at her, but advised Grey's fans to "not fall into that trap."
Vernoff also issued a statement in response, calling the report "wrong and hurtful and misguided."
"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 continued. "Ellen Pompeo has not only advocated passionate for her fellow cast members, she has taken the time to educate women worldwide as to how to advocate for themselves and that must not now be twisted."
Vernoff confirmed that the decision to let Drew and Capshaw go was strictly "a creative one." "The only thing as constant on Grey's Anatomy as Ellen Pompeo is our penchant for reinvention," she wrote, adding, "We love these actresses and we love these characters and it felt true and right creatively to wrap up their stories. And that is the whole story."
After news of the departures surfaced on Thursday morning, Drew and Capshaw issued their own statements, suggesting that they didn't see their exits coming.
"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. That will come later," Drew wrote. "For now, I'd like to say: I love you, and I love April, and her story isn't over yet."
Capshaw issued a similarly sentimental statement, writing, "I am sad to see [Arizona] go, but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on and on in all of our consciences and our imaginations."
Several of their co-stars also took to social media to express their love and appreciation for the two leading ladies. Camilla Luddington praised Drew and Capshaw, calling them "two of the kindest, most generous, talented women I’ve ever met."
Jesse Williams, whose character, Dr. Jackson Avery, is deeply connected with Drew's Dr. Kepner, shared his thoughts on the surprising news and was having a difficult time processing it.
"Sarah and Jessica are easily among my very favorite people and coworkers, so this news f**kin sucks," Williams tweeted. "Their immense talent speaks for itself but it’s them as people that I’m so grateful to know, privileged to have worked with and learned from."
"To say they’ll be missed is a massive understatement. Luckily for all of us, we’ll get to see these artists continue bringing compelling and complex characters to life for many moons to come!" he added, with the hashtag "#OurWorkIsForever."
Grey's Anatomyairs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.