Why Justin Chambers left Grey’s Anatomy

Justin Chambers played Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy for 15 years, but fans were forced to say goodbye to the character after 16 seasons.

Grey’s Anatomy lost one of its original cast members when Justin Chambers left the show in season 16. While he was just one of many original stars to leave the ABC medical drama (the most notable still being Patrick Dempsey, whose Dr. Derek Shepherd was killed), Chambers had worked for over a decade as Dr. Alex Karev. That meant his exit was shocking to fans, especially when told why the actor – and the character – was leaving.

Not only was it surprising that Justin Chambers was no longer part of the Grey’s Anatomy together, the scenario the screenwriters chose for Alex Karev’s departure proved controversial. Although the series is still considered one of the best romance shows to air on Netflix, delving into Alex’s past with fellow doctor Izzie Stevens wasn’t the send off many viewers expected. So why exactly did Justin Chambers leave Grey’s Anatomy?

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Who was Alex Karev in Grey’s Anatomy?

Justin Chambers as Alex Karev

Chambers has played Alex Karev, the pediatric specialist with an infamous reputation among the ladies, since the series premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Many of his storylines had to do with his romantic relationships. Alex’s original romantic partner was Izzie (played by Katherine Heigl) and the two got married, but the controversial relationship between the two died down in Season 6. He also slept with Kate Walsh’s character , Addison Montgomery (who recently returned to Grey’s). Alex began her next serious relationship with intern Jo Wilson in Season 10, and things looked up for the character after that – but her old flame Izzie ultimately turned her life around.

Viewers thought Alex was happy in his married life with Jo, but he shocked viewers when he decided to reunite with Izzie on the Season 16 episode “Leave a Light On”, which was the 350th episode. of the series (and a sign that he may have overstayed his welcome). Alex called Izzie to see if she would attend Meredith’s trial to have her medical license reinstated, and during the call he heard two young voices in the background. It was revealed that Izzie had used frozen embryos created during her cancer treatment to get pregnant, and both children were biologically Alex’s. He left Jo and moved to Kansas to start a life with his newly discovered family.

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Why Justin Chambers left Grey’s Anatomy

Justin Chambers plays Alex Karev in Grey's Anatomy

Alex’s sudden exit angered fans, who resented the way the show handled his storyline to accommodate Justin Chambers’ request to leave the show. They could not be angry with the actor, since he devoted himself to the role for 15 years. “For a while now I’ve been hoping to diversify my acting roles and my career choices,” Chambers said in a 2020 interview with Deadline. Alex had started out as just an intern and moved on to a pediatric surgery fellow, so it’s possible he felt he pushed the character as far as Alex could go.

Although the character moved to another state to reunite with Izzie, it’s possible he could return to the hospital in the future. It probably wouldn’t be with his (presumably remarried) wife, as Katherine Heigl has yet to reprise her role in Grey’s Anatomy and didn’t seem interested in doing so. However, if Alex Karev were to make an appearance, it would be interesting to see if the writers have him deal with his ex-wife Jo and the aftermath of his decision to suddenly divorce.

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