Fans were stunned on Thursday's episode as his character, Jackson Avery, revealed his intentions to move on from Sloan Grey Memorial Hospital.
It's been a huge year of surprising returns and incredible reunions on "Grey's Anatomy," which might explain why it was such a shock to fans when Jesse Williams' Jackson Avery made clear his intention to leave.
With all these familiar faces returning, fans weren't prepared to say goodbye to one they'd come to know over the past 12 seasons. Only four characters have been with the series longer than Williams, Kevin McKidd joined in Season 5, while OG cast-members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens Jr. remain the heart and soul of the show.
In fact, "Grey's" is fully expected to return for its 18th season, contingent on deals with those OG players. While the show has seen many cast turnovers, after all this time, it'll be hard to say goodbye to Williams, whose departure will actually come before the season finale.
Jackson's final episode is set for May 20, the next new episode, meaning he's just about out of time to say his goodbyes and make his arrangements to take over the Catherine Fox Foundation his mother (Debbie Allen) has been running in Boston.
But it also means fans will have one more chance to see him on-screen as part of the Sloan Grey Memorial family -- and maybe prepare themselves emotionally for yet another goodbye. Many are still reeling from the shocking death of Giacomo Gianniotti's Andrew DeLuca in March.
Adding a little fuel to the drama -- and potential excitement for long-time fans -- Jackson's baby mama April (Sarah Drew) joined those familiar returning faces this week, when he asked her if she'd consider moving with him to Boston so he could still be close to their daughter. Not only was she on board, but she also revealed she'd left her husband, opening that door!
"I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow castmates, our incredible crew, Krista, Ellen and Debbie," Williams said in a statement received by Deadline.
"As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds," he continued. "The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I’ll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies and dear friends."
Williams was at the end of his latest two-year contract and had already started stretching himself creatively beyond the show. He's been involved as a producer in multiple projects, signed on to an upcoming film and even was preparing his Broadway debut before Covid put a kibosh on those plans.