Jackson Avery actor Jesse Williams tells why he was nervous leaving the Anatomy of Passion. Williams was chosen in 2009 as part of a storyline in which Mercy West merged with Seattle Grace. Jackson and April Kepner (Sarah Drew), who joined the series at the same time, eventually became two of the most famous characters in “Anatomy of Passion”, partly thanks to their stormy romance. Although Jackson and April were not together when Drew left the series in 2018, they still reconciled.
When Williams decided to exit “Anatomy of Passion” as a series regular in May 2021, Drew returned as part of Jackson’s storyline. April agreed to take Harriet and move to Boston with Jackson so he could work at the Fox Foundation. After that, both Drew and Williams made it clear that they were ready to return at some point. This came true last month in the season 18 finale, when Jackson and April returned to the Grey-Sloan Memorial for the first time since moving. The characters even kissed in the elevator, confirming that they are back together in Boston.
In an interview with WWD, Williams discusses his departure from The Anatomy of Passion, as well as his work as an activist. He also explains why he was nervous about what roles he might be offered after leaving the show. Check out Williams’ full quote below:
I had an expectation of what would be projected onto me, and I was constantly and pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as limited as I thought. It wasn’t new to me, but it was new to the world: I was very politically present in the world. Many years ago, at the beginning of the movement for black lives, I was in Ferguson. I was very loud in the news all the time, telling the truth to the authorities, quite directly and aggressively, in a way that people have never seen actors of my generation actually do. So I had this image where, if you haven’t watched “Anatomy of Passion,” people knew me as a straight-talking person who has perspective. And I found that after that speech I started losing a lot of work. [Leaving Grey’s] I knew that no matter what, I would have to go there, knock on the sidewalk and do a new job. Because if you haven’t watched The Anatomy of Passion, you’ve never seen me work. People knew me for me. But not for making you feel like an actor.
Williams’ words are probably familiar to fellow actors who left the show after playing the same character for years. Being a regular participant in such a famous show as “Anatomy of Passion” has its advantages, namely that it is unlikely that its stars will be stunned by the cancellation. However, there are disadvantages. Many “Anatomy of Passion” actors, including star Ellen Pompeo, have talked about how exhausting it is to play the same character for decades, especially given the long hours it takes to create a network TV show. With such a schedule, it can be difficult for actors to pursue other projects, which leads to the situation that Williams describes, when the audience cannot imagine that he is playing someone other than Jackson Avery.
Fortunately, Williams was successful after “Anatomy of Passion”; he had just received a Tony Award nomination for his role in the play “Take Me Out”. While other actors have struggled to expand their careers since leaving Grey’s, Williams is already on track to do so. Moreover, he is still proud of his work in the series, as evidenced by his return last month. I hope Williams can continue to play exciting roles.