I’ve found both April Kepner and Arizona Robbins insufferable for full seasons at a time during their tenures at Grey Sloan Memorial. I’ve also found them both inexplicably engaging, likeable and progressively more tolerable as the seasons went on. Arizona was at her best when she was with Callie and April was the most endearing when she was will-they-or-won’t-they-ing with Jackson. These characters became chipper, smiley staples in the Grey’s Anatomy universe but lately, without their more intriguing romantic counterparts, they haven’t really done much.
This is exactly why Sarah Drew (Kepner) and Jessica Capshaw (Robbins) are leaving Grey’s Anatomy. I scrolled passed that news with a shrug and a “meh.” And that’s not because I don’t care about Grey’s casting updates. I care deeply. I am a Grey’s Anatomy ride-or-die. I will watch this show until the day Shonda Rhimes pulls the plug and finally puts us out of our misery. I care about Grey’s Anatomy. I just don’t really care about April Kepner and Arizona Robbins. To me, their exits make complete sense. What have Kepner and Robbins done for us lately?
Co-showrunner and executive producer, Krista Vernoff, released a statement to Deadline about why the show decided not to renew Drew’s and Capshaw’s contracts for Season 15:
“As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses.”
She also provided more context to the show’s decision in a lengthy Twitter post. Shonda Rhimes echoed these sentiments and gave a nice summation of the importance of each character:
“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 LBGTQ and 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 performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family.”
So, it was a creative decision. Meh. Right now, halfway through season 14, Arizona barely has a storyline. She makes out with that hot Italian doctor (Deluca’s sister) every so often and she throws worried glances April’s way when she’s not making out with Hot Italian. While it is still nice to see an openly lesbian character on primetime network TV, makeouts and worried glances are not exactly Emmy-worthy material. Over the past couple episodes, April’s storyline has evolved slightly from bright and shiny go-getter Christian to hot-mess partier questioning her faith and that’s only been moderately interesting.
Both actresses had reportedly expressed concerns about their dwindling screen time. Arizona has been around for 10 seasons. April has been there for 9. That’s a long ass time. That’s a good ass run. It’s not a stretch to believe that the writers have just run out of sh-t for them to do and that Shonda and the other producers decided to give these actors the freedom to leave and pursue more screen time elsewhere. On another show, people may have accepted that reasoning. On this show, as soon as a cast member leaves, the conspiracy theories start. We all know that Shonda has no problem writing actors off the show when they misbehave (See: Patrick Dempsey, Isaiah Washington and Katherine Heigl) but these conspiracy theories have nothing to do with these actors behaving badly.
Remember when Ellen Pompeo won the honourary Most Badass Lead Actor on a Drama Series award for writing an op-ed detailing her fight for her worth with ABC? In that op-ed for THR, it was revealed that Ellen Pompeo is now TV’s $20 million woman. So, the easy theory is that in order for ABC to honour Pompeo’s pay increase, they cut a few cast members. That would MAYBE make sense if they had replaced Patrick Dempsey when he was killed off in season 11. But they didn’t. He was making more than all of his female co-stars. So, Pompeo demanded what was rightfully hers. Turning this into a story about how two women had to get fired in order for one woman to get the pay she was already entitled to diminishes Ellen Pompeo’s work and worth (she wasn’t too happy about the suggestion either.) It also makes Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw look like nothing more than collateral damage. It makes it sound like the success of one woman has to come at the cost of two. That narrative is a lazy attempt to create drama when there is none.
How come no one is blaming Scott Speedman’s addition to the show for these two departures? How come no one is talking about how Jason George just left to star in that firefighter spinoff so it’s not like the show is pinching pennies? They have his whole salary to redistribute. Leave Ellen Pompeo alone.
Now, can we move past the conspiracy theories to talk about how GOOD this decision is for Grey’s Anatomy? Getting rid of April and Arizona leaves room for more new doctors and fresh storylines. I’m also really coming around on Jackson and Maggie so GOOD RIDDANCE, #JAPRIL. April and Arizona are not a part of the OG Grey’s cast. I won’t miss them like I miss Cristina Yang every Thursday night. In fact, I don’t think I’ll miss them at all.
In Shonda I Trust. My final question is this: which one is going to die?