9 Characters We Wish Grey's Anatomy Would Bring Back in Season 16
The season 16 premiere of Grey's Anatomy is right around the corner, with the first new episode of the long-running medical drama airing on Sept. 26. When we last left off with the doctors of Grey-Sloan Memorial at the end of season 15, it felt like everything was in flux, with multiple docs getting fired, having babies, checking into rehab, or just straight-up disappearing.
With so much up in the air, it's understandable that Grey's might try to stabilize things a bit by bringing in a familiar face. In an interview with TVLine, showrunner Krista Vernoff teased that she was "trying to get someone back," implying a former cast member might pop up at some point. "There's someone I'm hoping will make an appearance this year," Vernoff said, "[but] it's a real maybe. I'm trying."
Who could this mystery alumnus be? Over the years, hundreds of actors have entered and exited the halls of Grey-Sloan, and Vernoff's comment doesn't make it clear whether she's referring to a long-time series cast member or a memorable one-off guest star. Still, we can make a few educated guesses as to who she might be referring to, and we've gathered up all the top candidates in order to revisit who they are, why they left, and what might entice them to come back.
After an emotional roller coaster of a season that saw devout doc April Kepner (Sarah Drew) lose her faith, gain it back, nearly die, and stealthily reunite with — and subsequently marry! — her ex-fiancé, she decided at the end of season 14 to quit her job and go serve the homeless population of Seattle, marking her exit from the show. The decision to leave wasn't Drew's decision, but rather a creative call made by the writing team, and Drew has gone on the record as saying that while it "would be hard" to return to the world of Grey's, that she'd consider it under the right circumstances.
Of all the cast members who have left the show, April might be the one that makes the most sense to bring back, considering that she still lives in Seattle, is still co-parenting her daughter Harriet with her ex-husband Jackson (Jesse Williams), and that her departure didn't really make all that much sense in the first place. Any number of events could bring April back to Grey-Sloan, from a medical emergency affecting her or a member of her family, to a storyline involving Jackson or Harriet that affects April as well, to one of the many recent job openings now at Grey-Sloan that April is more than qualified to fill.
Fetal surgeon Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) left Grey's at the same time as April Kepner, leaving Seattle to move to New York, where her ex-wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) resides, so that their daughter Sofia could stop splitting time between her parents. Like Drew, the decision for Capshaw to leave wasn't her call, but at least in Arizona's case, her exit made a little more sense. Throughout season 14, Sofia had been struggling and acting out, clearly missing one mom while unwilling to leave the other behind. Arizona's decision to put her daughter first and uproot her life so that Sofia could feel safe and supported was a beautiful way to end her arc, especially considering that originally, Arizona didn't even want kids. Plus, judging by the text messages she was exchanging with Callie in her final episodes, it looked like it might finally be the time for the two star-crossed lovers to reconnect for good.
While Arizona's exit felt pretty well earned, it would be easy enough to find an excuse to bring her back. While it's hard to see a scenario where Arizona would come back to Seattle for good, as one of the only fetal surgeons in the country, the former Chief of Pediatrics would be the first one any of the doctors at Grey-Sloan would call to assist with a tricky case that could make use of her unique skill set.
After an ugly custody battle for Sofia — the biological child of Callie and the deceased Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) — that resulted in her ex-wife Arizona being granted full custody of their daughter, Callie was faced with a choice between following through on her plan to move to New York with her girlfriend, Penny, or stay in Seattle in order to be close to Sofia. Ultimately, though, Callie didn't have to choose, as Arizona ignored the court's ruling and offered Callie a joint custody arrangement. Callie, Penny, and Sofia moved to New York at the end of season 12, although Sofia subsequently returned to live with Arizona, and passed along the information that Callie and Penny eventually broke up.
Although Ramirez was the one who made the call for Callie to leave, she's said she'd be open to the possibility of coming back to Grey's at some point, and series creator Shonda Rhimes has said the show would be happy to have her. With Ramirez now finished with her role on Madam Secretary, season 16 might be the perfect time to bring back the orthopedic surgeon. Maybe she accompanies Arizona on a special case, maybe she's called in for a consult of her own, or maybe — if we're extremely lucky — the whole reconciled Robbins-Torres family just moves back for good.
As an original cast member of Grey's, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) was a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, a fierce competitor, and Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) "person." The two best friends, affectionately nicknamed the "twisted sisters" by the other characters on the show, stuck together through 10 seasons, weathering more disasters and personal traumas together than most people would experience in multiple lifetimes. When Oh made the decision to leave the show at the end of season 10, Cristina got the esteemed exit she deserved, leaving to take over for her ex-fiancé Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) as Chief Medical Officer of the Klausman Institute For Medical Research in Switzerland.
Although she hasn't appeared on the show in years, Cristina's presence is still felt occasionally, such as when she returned for Derek's (Patrick Dempsey) funeral, when she called Meredith after she was awarded the Harper Avery award, or when she offered intern Sam Bello (Jeanine Mason) a safe refuge when the dreamer was at risk of being deported. While Oh has said repeatedly that she probably wouldn't return to the medical drama due to her commitment to her series Killing Eve, we still wouldn't be surprised if she was the one Vernoff was attempting to woo back, possibly with a particularly juicy cardio surgery, or with a case that requires Meredith and some of the other docs to make an international trip to the Klausman Institute. Even if Cristina is not the one Vernoff is trying to persuade to rejoin the Grey's fold, considering that Cristina has always been one of Shonda Rhimes's personal favorites, we expect the show will keep the door open for her return all the way until the very last episode.
After a slew of lackluster intern classes, Stephanie Edwards (Jerrika Hinton) entered the halls of Grey-Sloan as part of Jo Karev's (Camilla Luddington) class back in season nine. While she never officially declared a specialty, Steph was a clearly gifted doctor, excelling at nearly every every field she tried. She was also good friends with Jo, calling back to the early days of Meredith and Cristina's competitive friendship. Unfortunately, Steph decided to quit practicing medicine after she was abducted by a rapist and caught in a fire at the end of season 13. Although she managed to get away from her abductor, she decided that she had too many traumatic memories in hospitals, and that she needed a change.
While Stephanie's exit seemed to preclude her ever returning to Grey-Sloan as a doctor, she could still come back for personal reasons. Maybe she has a loved one requiring medical treatment, maybe she has a new profession that causes her to cross paths with one of the characters on the show, or maybe she just comes back for a visit. Truthfully, it's a little weird that we haven't already seen Steph again, since surely she would've been invited to Alex (Justin Chambers) and Jo's wedding, so maybe she could show up to pay a belated visit to the newlyweds, or to help Jo through the rough patch she's currently in.
The relationship between Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd will likely go down as one of the great love stories in television history, and as every TV watcher knows, no love story is complete without a little drama. That drama arrived at the end of season one in the form of OB/GYN Addison Forbes Montgomery (Kate Walsh), Derek's wife who followed him to Seattle from New York after he'd walked in on her cheating on him with his best friend, then promptly walked right back out. At first, it appeared as though Addison was being set up as an antagonist — a vicious dragon-lady in killer heels, out to steal back Meredith's man — but it soon became evident that there was much more to Addison than just her marital troubles. The character quickly became so popular that she left at the end of season three to headline her own spinoff series, Private Practice, which ran for six seasons alongside Grey's.
While Addison returned to Seattle a number of times in various crossover episodes during the run of Private Practice, she hasn't been back to Grey-Sloan since her series ended in 2013, making it high time for a visit, or even a more permanent stay, preferably alongside her infertility specialist husband, Jake Reilly (Benjamin Bratt). One obvious way to bring Addison back is with a pregnancy-related concern; with Arizona gone, there's no one at Grey-Sloan who's an obvious candidate to treat a tricky obstetrics issue. While as far as we know, none of the main characters on Grey's are currently pregnant (after Teddy gave birth in the season 15 finale), that could always change, and with Shonda Rhimes saying she'd love for Addison to return at some point, we won't rule anything out.
Of all the main characters who have left Grey's over the years, no exit was quite as dramatic behind-the-scenes as that of Katherine Heigl's Izzie Stevens, who will forever be known as the one who withdrew her name from Emmy consideration because she "did not feel that [she] was given the material [during season three] to warrant an Emmy nomination." Things never felt quite right for Izzie on the show after that, and she wound up leaving the show in season six after an arc in which she got cancer, got married, got fired, moved away from Seattle, and ultimately got divorced, in that order.
While Heigl didn't exactly leave Grey's on good terms, there have always been a few dangling threads when it came to Izzie, and her name has popped up time and time again in the years since she left. Although her ex-husband Alex is now happily remarried, he still thinks of her sometimes, imagining what she might be doing and painting a mental picture in which she's happy, healthy, and fulfilled. Now that nearly 10 seasons have passed since Izzie's departure, perhaps the smoke has cleared enough for us to finally learn where Izzie went after leaving Seattle, and what she's doing now. There's no telling what sort of storyline might bring Izzie back to her old stomping grounds — we don't even know if she's still a doctor — but seeing her return to Grey-Sloan for a short arc after all these years away would definitely make for an interesting few episodes.
Although it's easy to assume that Krista Vernoff was referring to a former series regular when she talked about bringing someone back, she never explicitly confirmed that she was referring to someone with multiple seasons of history on the show. Perhaps she was referring to a memorable guest star who had more potential than they were able to explore during their brief arc. Someone, perhaps, like Scott Speedman's Nick Marsh.
A transplant surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Marsh was around for only a single episode, first as Meredith's colleague, then as her patient after collapsing in the hallway. While Speedman's character wasn't around for long, his scenes with Meredith positively crackled with electricity, and even though Speedman hasn't given any indication that he'll be returning to the series, that hasn't stopped us from sitting on the edge of our seats, hoping for the best. Meredith might be dating Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) at the moment, but we wouldn't blame her if a follow-up visit from Nick Marsh — or better yet, if he joined the staff of Grey-Sloan, filling one of the many vacant positions in the hospital — caused her to reevaluate her romantic priorities.
This one's a deep cut, but would be a delightful callback to the soapy, steamy storylines of the first few seasons. We last saw Finn, the dreamy vet played by your '90s crush, Chris O'Donnell, back during the beginning of season three, when Meredith finally stopped stringing him along and ended their relationship. Finn hasn't come up much since then, but he's still out there in the Grey's-verse, somewhere, meaning it's not outside the realm of possibility that he could eventually find his way back onto the show.
While it's possible that another character could get a pet and decide to take their furry friend to the exact same vet that Meredith used (in more ways than one), what seems more likely if Finn were to return is that some sort of human medical issue would bring him to the hospital. Maybe he gets sick or injured, and Meredith has to treat him, or maybe he brings in a loved one for medical attention, and he and Meredith have some awkward conversations in which they discover they're still attracted to one another. Perhaps those conversations could even take place on an elevator.