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Grey's Boss Rebuts Notion That Jessica Capshaw's Exit Is Due to Pompeo's Raise

Grey's Boss Rebuts Notion That Jessica Capshaw's Exit Is Due to Pompeo's Raise

Jessica Capshaw

News broke that beloved actress Capshaw, who played the history-making lesbian character Arizona, has been cut from Grey's Anatomy, and the internet blamed it on lead Ellen Pompeo's raise. 

The announcement that Grey's Anatomy producers opted not to renew contracts for two actresses who've played long-running, important characters turned controversial when showrunner Krista Vernoff accused Deadline of pitting women against each other by juxtaposing the news of the casting cuts with a reminder of lead Ellen Pompeo's recent pay raise.

On Thursday, Deadline reported that beloved actresses Sarah Drew, who plays the deeply Christian April Kepner, and Jessica Capshaw, whose lesbian pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins broke ground when she was introduced on the series a decade ago as one of the first queer series regulars on a network drama, would end their runs at the close of the current season. Characters and actors come and go fairly regularly on the series that Shonda Rhimes ushered into TV history, but the letting go of two such well-loved characters sent the internet into a frenzy as to the reasoning behind the cuts.

"The decision not to bring back Capshaw and Drew comes on the heels of the blockbuster new Pompeo pact that gave her a significant salary increase, paying her as much as $20 million a year," Deadline wrote of Pompeo's landmark payday for women, which Vernoff countered in a tweet.

"The suggestion in the Deadline article that our cast changes are in any way related to Ellen Pompeo's salary negotiation is wrong, and hurtful, and misguided," Vernoff tweeted on what also happened to be International Women's Day. "It smacks of an old, broken, patriarchal notion that women must be pitted against each other and that one woman's success will be costly to others."

Vernoff then extolled Pompeo as a champion for other women and for her castmates, explaining that the choice to end Arizona's and April's runs was purely creative.

"We love these actresses and we love these characters and it felt true and right creatively to wrap up their stories," Vernoff wrote.

Pompeo, who's played Grey's Anatomy'sanchor Meredith Grey for the show's 14-season run, negotiated a deal earlier this year ensuring she's paid $575,000 per episode, making her the highest-paid actress on a prime-time drama.

Once word got out that Deadline tied Capshaw's and Drew's exits to Pompeo negotiating a solid contract for herself and fans got involved to either support or drag her, she weighed in on Twitter.

"It's unfortunate that Deadline chooses to pit women against each other on International Women's Day," Pompeo tweeted. "I'm a big girl. Deadline can take shots at me if they want, but to the fans, please don't fall into that trap. This is above my pay grade."

Meanwhile, series creator Rhimes tweeted out her love and admiration for Capshaw and Drew:

"It's always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters. Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic --both the LGBTQ and the devout Christian communities are underrepresented on TV. I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performances and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family."

Capshaw, who joined Grey's Anatomy in 2008 as Arizona, who began as a recurring character but whose epic love story with Callie (Sara Ramirez) became a touchstone and a central story arc especially for queer fans, tweeted about the honor of having portrayed such a meaningful character.

"For the past 10 years I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins but also being madly in love with playing her," Capshaw wrote. "She was one of the first members of the LGBTQ community to be represented in a series regular role on network television. Her impact on the world is permanent and forever. I am grateful that I've gotten to bring her to life and for the life that she has brought to me."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.