'Grey's Anatomy' without Dr. Grey? Ellen Pompeo bids farewell to the medical drama

What's "Grey's Anatomy" without Dr. Grey? Fans will soon find out. 

The 19th season of the ABC medical drama will be the first to feature multiple episodes without its lead character, Dr. Meredith Grey. On Nov. 17, Ellen Pompeo opened up about her partial departure. 

"I am eternally grateful and humbled by the love and support you have all shown me, Meredith GREY and the show for 19 seasons!" Pompeo began her Instagram post. "Through it all….none of it …would have been possible without the best fans in the world."

In August, it was announced Pompeo would only appear in eight episodes of the new season but remain serving as executive producer and continue to offer he iconic voiceover narrations for future episodes. 

"You all are RIDERS and you all have made the ride so fun and ICONIC!!" Pompeo said. "I love you madly and appreciate you right back."

Goodbye Dr. Grey? Ellen Pompeo to cut back on 'Grey's Anatomy' episodes for upcoming season. 

"This isn’t your first time on the rollercoaster… you know the show must go on and I’ll definitely be back to visit. With a lot of love and immense gratitude," Pompeo concluded her Instagram post . 

Pompeo is reducing her presence on the show as she sets to star in an untitled, limited series for Hulu, Disney corporate sibling to ABC. Her co-star Wilson confirmed to E! at the People's Choice Awards that "Meredith is still a part of every episode, still doing the voiceovers for every episode and she gets to come through, and ebb and flow all through the season."

She added, "Meredith is always with us."

Pompeo's upcoming Hulu show will be based on the real-life story of a tangled 2010 adoption involving a U.S. couple and will mark Pompeo's first new series role since "Grey's Anatomy."

ABC has not ruled out Pompeo's return for season 20, which has not yet been confirmed, according to Deadline. Her last appearance on the show is set for Feb. 23 when "Grey's Anatomy" returns from its current fall break. 

USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for ABC for further comment

Viewers last saw Meredith leaving Seattle for Boston accepting a position from the Catherine Fox Foundation to research Alzheimer's disease, which killed her mother, Dr. Ellis Grey, in season three. 

Related: 7 reasons why 'Grey’s Anatomy,' now 15, has outlasted 'ER'

"Grey’s Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes has previously said the show could continue for as long as Pompeo decides to stay. 

“I didn’t ever think that I would stay on the show this long. It happened, and here I am. It’s been this incredible platform for me and allowed me to stay home with my kids so much and not travel and have the circus life of an actor,” Pompeo told Variety in 2020. “So I thought that it wasn’t the road less traveled, to stay on a television show for this many years, but actually it is the road less traveled. And so, that’s been ironic.”

New resident class:Meet the new interns shaking up ABC's hit medical drama in Season 19

"Grey's Anatomy" is not new to cast departures with Sandra Oh (Dr. Cristina Yang) exiting in 2014, Patrick Dempsey (Dr. Derek Shepherd) in 2015 and Justin Chambers (Dr. Alex Karev) in 2020. 

Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Dr. Richard Webber) remain the last original two series regulars on the show. 

But the show has always found ways to reinvent itself and the newest season is no exception. During the October season premiere, Dr. Grey welcomed five new surgical interns to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital as it rebuilds the teaching program it was forced to disband. 

Although "Grey's" introduces new residents roughly every five seasons, most are only recurring characters, executive producer Krista Vernoff told USA TODAY.

"The big swing here is that it's the first time since (Season 1) we have a class of five series-regular interns." The idea is to "truly refocus the show on the plight of becoming a surgeon when you have basically no idea what you're doing," Vernoff added. 

Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY; Associated Press