Ellen Pompeo explains why she's taking reduced role in 'Grey's Anatomy': 'I don't deserve to be in every episode'

Grey’s Anatomy will have substantially less Grey when it returns for a 19th season this October.

As announced last month, longtime lead Ellen Pompeo, who plays the show’s namesake character, Dr. Meredith Grey, will have a reduced role in ABC’s hugely popular medical drama as the actress stars in a new still-untitled series on Hulu about the real-life American parents who adopted a Ukrainian woman posing as an orphan child.

In an interview Friday with Yahoo Entertainment at Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., Pompeo shed more light on her decision to have limited screen time in the new season of Grey’s, saying that taking a smaller role was better than leaving the show altogether (watch above).

“The fans love the show, the company loves the show and I always want to make everybody happy,” said Pompeo, who, along with former Grey’s co-star Patrick Dempsey, was honored as part of the new class of Disney Legends. “I don’t know if that makes me a people pleaser, or I need therapy. I don’t know what it means.

“The show inspires people to go into the medical field. It inspires young people to want to be healers and doctors. It’s an amazing platform, and I really love it. But there’s only so much of it I can do after 19 seasons. It’s a lot. And I’ve given the fans and the show so much of my heart and passion and energy, and if I don’t have that same level 19 seasons later, I don’t deserve to be in every single episode. The fans deserve people who are super-excited and happy to be there. And these new kids that we have coming in are very happy and excited to be there.

“I did want to step away, and they were gracious enough to hear me and then they were also more gracious than that to offer me another role.” (Hulu is majority-owned by ABC parent Disney.)

GREY'S ANATOMY, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, 'State of Love and Trust', (Season 6, episode 13, aired February 4, 2010), 2005 -, photo: Adam Larkey / ©ABC / courtesy Everett Collection
Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey in Grey’s Anatomy. (Photo: Adam Larkey/ABC/courtesy Everett Collection)

Watch our full interview above to see Pompeo and Dempsey (who was rocking a new blond look for his upcoming movie Ferrari) reflect on the beginnings of Grey’s Anatomy — and watch below to see what happened when Pompeo crashed our interview with Dempsey, and the "McDreamy" actor named himself new host of Yahoo Entertainment.