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Jesse Williams To Exit 'Grey's Anatomy' After 12 Seasons, Says He Will 'Forever Be Grateful For The Boundless Opportunities'

jesse williams greys anatomy exit dr jackson avery ok
Source: ABC

May. 7 2021, Published 8:34 a.m. ET

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Dr. Jackson Avery is saying goodbye to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. 

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Jesse Williams, who plays Dr. Avery on Grey's Anatomy, will leave the medical drama after 12 seasons on May 20, ABC announced. 

On the Thursday, May 6, episode, Dr. Avery reunited with ex-wife April (Sarah Drew), who agreed to follow him to Boston. 

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"I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow cast mates, our incredible crew, Krista [Vernoff], Ellen [Pompeo] and Debbie [Allen]," Williams, 39, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

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"As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds," the statement continued. "The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I'll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies and dear friends." 

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Vernoff paid tribute to her cast member in her own statement. 

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"Watching his evolution these past 11 years both on screen and off has been a true gift. Jesse brings so much heart, such depth of care, and so much intelligence to his work. We will miss Jesse terribly and we will miss Jackson Avery — played to perfection for so many years," she said.  

Williams joined Grey's Anatomy in 2006 during season six. 

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jesse williams greys anatomy exit dr jackson avery ok
Source: MEGA

Season 17 has seen a host of old characters returning, and current characters leaving. As the coronavirus pandemic takes center stage of the current season, Dr. Meridith Grey (Pompeo) has been sick with the virus with old favorites such as Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) and Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) appearing in her dreams. 

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Dr. Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) was also killed off this season.

While Dr. Grey's future is uncertain, Williams told PEOPLE earlier this year that he doesn't think Grey's Anatomy will come to an end soon. "I remember six years ago being like, 'Yeah, two more years makes sense. And then two more years, and then two more years. And I made a joke earlier that Grey's is like betting against Tom Brady — you just don't do it," he told the outlet.

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Meanwhile, a source told OK! that Pompeo will "weigh her options" before deciding if she will return for another season

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"She's pushing to get a raise from her current $20 million to $25 million a year," the insider explained, as the season 17 ratings have reportedly been dropping. "Network execs are concerned the series can't bounce back without re-signing her.

"It's hard to put a price tag on all that, but the bottom line is you can't have Grey's without Ellen," the source explained. "Plus, she's one of the toughest negotiators in Hollywood, so the odds are in her favor." 

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