Warning: this article contains spoilers from the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Read at your own risk.
Once again, a finale of Grey’s Anatomy aired and featured a cast member departing from the show. In the episode from Thursday night, viewers saw Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) fight to save Erin, the little girl who constantly wandered around the hospital while her little brother was getting treated, from the fire that that broke out because of a dangerous patient. Both of them survived, but Stephanie made the decision to leave the residency program, telling Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) that she had been in and out of hospitals her whole life and wanted to do other things. Hinton spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about her decision to leave the show and got a goodbye tweet from the mother of ShondaLand herself, Shonda Rhimes.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) May 19, 2017
Hinton said that she was originally cast in a comedy pilot from Rhimes called Toast last season that, if it had been picked up to season, would have featured her scaling back this season on Grey’s Anatomy as she worked on both shows. However, Toast wasn’t picked up to series and Hinton was able to remain on Grey’s Anatomy full-time. But now, Hinton has been cast in the upcoming Alan Ball drama on HBO that has been ordered to series, which is what prompted Hinton to leave the show.
“When Toast didn’t go, I went away and had a spiritual summer in a lot of ways. Shonda and I had a meeting at the beginning of season 13 where we talked about my departure and my creative process, and she was very supportive of my wishes. And I am eternally grateful to her for understanding,” Hinton said.
Hinton did say she liked the way her character was able to leave the show and also revealed that she took one thing from set: her character’s lab coat (hopefully she took one that wasn’t singed and burnt from the fire). “I do love her completion. For me, it’s the natural conclusion for what has been a journey of self-exploration. … Her epiphany is the hero’s journey. It’s not just setting a rapist on fire and saving this little kid; it’s her fully and finally seeing her life for what it is and walking a different and hopefully better path. That’s a hero’s journey.”
Hinton first joined the cast of Grey’s Anatomy at the beginning of the ninth season as a recurring cast member. She was bumped up to a main cast member before the start of the 10th season and remained a part of the cast up until the 13th season finale. With her departure, that leaves Jo Wilson (Camilla Ludington) the only remaining intern that joined the cast in the ninth season.
Grey’s Anatomy returns in the fall in its 8 p.m. Thursday night timeslot. A premiere date has not yet been announced.