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The Truth Behind Kate Walsh’s Grey’s Anatomy Exit

In television, not all characters are made equal — or at least not all characters receive the same amount of love from fans. There are some characters so universally disliked that fans beg the showrunners to write them off, while there are some so well-loved that viewers hope that they never leave. And when they do, fans mourn so much that some even choose to stop watching altogether.

In “Grey’s Anatomy,” a handful of characters were loved by fans so much that it hurt them to see the actors leave the show. One of them happens to be Kate Walsh, who portrayed the role of Dr. Addison Montgomery. While she was only part of the cast for only three seasons, Walsh surely made her presence felt. She played Derek Shepherd’s ex-wife, further complicating things between Derek and Meredith Grey at the time. Fans initially thought that she would do nothing but participate in a quick love triangle arc and be the villain of the show’s central couple, but she ended up becoming a fan-favorite.

As it turns out, Dr. Montgomery is a kick-ass surgeon herself! She served as chief OB/GYN and neonatal surgeon in Grey Sloan memorial (then Seattle Grace), saving babies one pair of pink scrubs at a time. But just as the audience was falling in love with her, she left “Grey’s Anatomy” and left a huge Addison-shaped hole on the show.

Kate Walsh left Grey’s to star in an Addison-centric spinoff

Kate Walsh may have left “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she didn’t leave the “Grey’s” universe altogether. She still appeared in a handful of episodes when the doctors were in need of a more skilled neonatal surgeon. But the real reason Addison Montgomery couldn’t find the time to visit Grey Sloan Memorial more often was because she was thriving in California, where she has taken up residence at the Oceanside Wellness Center. At the time, she said goodbye to Seattle and starred in her own spinoff, “Private Practice.”

When Shonda Rhimes first presented her with the opportunity to be the main star of a new medical series, Walsh felt a bit hesitant yet incredibly excited. “I was shocked and excited and mostly just totally blown away. Then I was nervous, like, “Wait, really? Why me?” she told TV Guide in 2007. “But mostly I was just thrilled because it totally felt like the right thing. I was so flattered and honored that they would think of my character to take off for greener pastures.” She also shared how the cast of “Grey’s” was happy for her. “They were totally supportive, but we’re so tight and bonded that it was a big deal,” she added. “But it did feel like the right time to go.”

While “Private Practice” didn’t have the same level of success as “Grey’s Anatomy,” it ran for six seasons, with Addison marrying Dr. Jake Reilly and adopting a son named Henry.

Kate Walsh has since returned to Grey’s Anatomy

“Private Practice” has been off the air since 2013, but Kate Walsh managed to keep herself busy with other projects. She starred in “13 Reasons Why” in Seasons 1 and 2, and had recurring roles in other Netflix shows like “The Umbrella Academy” and “Emily in Paris.” And now, Walsh has made a big comeback to Seattle and reprised her Addison Montgomery role on the 18th season of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“It felt just beautiful and I was so pleased,” Walsh said when asked about her return to the longest-running medical drama on primetime TV, per Variety. “For years and years, there wasn’t an interview that I’ve ever done where someone hasn’t said, ‘So fans are wondering, will you ever go back to ‘Grey’s’?’ And so, I did.”

Fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” know the show has a habit of having former actors make a quick return for an episode or two, so it’s still unclear whether Walsh’s comeback will eventually turn into a permanent role like the first time around. “Right now we’re just doing a few episodes and we’ll see what happens,” she said. “I was excited, though, to make the comeback to where it all began for me … Nobody knows what the future holds … but for now, this is what we’ve got planned: just to have Addison pop in and we’ll see what happens, what transpires.”

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