'Grey's Anatomy': Before They Were Stars
Before: The woman now known as Meredith Grey once starred alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman in 2002’s Moonlight Mile, and went on to appear in Catch Me if You Can and Old School.
Now: Pompeo’s been at the center of Grey’s since it first premiered in 2005 — and, more recently, you might have also seen her make a cameo in Taylor Swift’s star-studded “Bad Blood” music video.
Before: Cinephiles will recognize Oh from The Princess Diaries, where she played Vice Principal Gupta — you know, the one who desperately (and hilariously) tries to impress the Queen in her decidedly un-glamorous high school office. Her other (perhaps more notable) roles include ones in Under the Tuscan Sun and the Oscar-nominated Sideways. She also had a seven-year run on HBO’s Arli$$.
Now: After playing Meredith’s dark-and-twisty person for 10 seasons —and nabbing five Emmy nominations in the process — Oh left the show in 2014 to focus more on the stage.
Before: Dempsey showcased his dreaminess in multiple ‘80s and ‘90s films — including 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love, which he starred in alongside the late Amanda Peterson — and notably played Reese Witherspoon’s fiancé in 2000’s Sweet Home Alabama.
Now: The 21st episode of the show’s 11th season was an ugly day to save lives, because that’s when Dempsey's Derek Shepherd died in a room full of ill-prepared doctors not equipped to handle his brain injury from a car crash. Since then, the actor's kept busy racing cars and told EW in April that he’d “like to be a producer” or appear on another show, albeit one with shorter seasons: "I don’t know if I could do that,” he said of starring in another show with dozens of episodes. “It’s financially rewarding but there comes a point where how much is enough, really?”
Before: Remember Bob Patterson? No? That’s probably for the best: Wilson appeared in the short-lived sitcom created by Seinfeld alum Jason Alexander, and a USA Today writer deemed her “the only person in the show you can imagine wanting to see again.” Her other pre-Grey’s credits include Philadelphia and guest appearances on beloved shows like The Sopranos and Sex and the City.
Now: Turns out that USA Today writer was onto something: Wilson is another one of the few original Grey’s cast members still left and has been nominated for four Emmy awards total.
James Pickens, Jr.
Before: Name a ‘90s TV show, and there’s a good chance Pickens appeared on it at one point. Blossom, Beverly Hills 90210, Coach, Touched by An Angel, Roseanne, Seinfeld — he had roles on all of them. He went on to have a recurring role on The X-Files and continued to pop up on buzz-worthy shows until nabbing the Chief of Surgery gig on Grey’s.
Now: Pickens’ Richard Webber might not be Chief anymore, but he still is a member of the show’s main cast.
Before: Washington starred alongside Jet Li and Aaliyah in 2000’s Romeo Must Die and appeared in a handful of ‘90s and early ‘00s shows like Law & Order and All My Children.
Now: Washington was a fan-favorite as the dreamy-but-stern Dr. Burke — that is, before reports surfaced that he called co-star T.R. Knight a “f----t” on set during an argument with Patrick Dempsey. He was later let go from the show at the end of its third season, but returned briefly for a season 10 storyline involving Cristina Yang. He now stars on the CW’s The 100.
Before: Once upon a time, a young Heigl starred in the 1996 TV movie Wish Upon a Star, and from there, went to essentially grow up on the screen: She continued to star in TV movies, and had her first regular role on a series when she joined Roswell in 1999.
Now: After leaving Grey’s in season 6 on not-so-great terms, Heigl pursued a film career and headlined multiple romantic comedies including 2008’s 27 Dresses and 2009’s The Ugly Truth. By 2014, she was once again starring in another TV drama: NBC’s State of Affairs, which the network canceled after one season.
Before: Knight spent most of his time on Broadway in shows like 2001’s Noises Off and 2003’s Tartuffe prior to his television career taking off.
Now: Knight left Grey’s Anatomy after season 5 for multiple reasons, and he went on to return to the stage.
Before: Although Chambers appeared on TV shows like Another World and New York Undercover in the ‘90s, he’s perhaps most recognized pre-Grey’s as Massimo — Jennifer Lopez’s not-quite-love interest — in 2001’s The Wedding Planner.
Now: Chambers is one of the originals still left on Grey’s, and like many of his other costars, even crossed over to now-defunct Private Practice for one episode in 2009.
Before: Walsh’s first major TV gig was on The Drew Carey Show, which she appeared in from 1997 to 2000. She later starred alongside fellow Grey’s alum Sandra Oh in 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun.
Now: Dr. Addison Montgomery first entered the Grey’s scene as McDreamy’s ex-wife, but quickly became much more than that — so much more that she got her own spin-off, ABC’s Private Practice. That drama went on for six seasons until its 2013 conclusion, but Walsh continued to appear on Grey’s as a guest star up until its eighth season.
Before: The actor who went on to become known as McSteamy appeared in episodes of Saved by the Bell and Roseanne before nabbing a recurring role on Charmed.
Now: Dane’s Mark Sloan was one of the multiple casualties from Grey’s season 8 plane crash, and now confronts another type of disaster in TNT’s The Last Ship, a drama about members of the Navy trying to halt a global pandemic from wiping out the rest of the world’s population.
Before: Leigh first proved her star power as the lead in 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, and landed a spot on Reunion’s main cast a few years later in 2005.
Now: Leigh started playing Meredith Grey’s little sister (and McSteamy’s occasional love interest) in season 3, but was killed off in the season 8 plane crash. Even though that character is no longer with us, Leigh will once again play a doctor on CBS’ upcoming Supergirl, in which she’ll play the title character’s sister.
Before: Like T.R. Knight, Ramirez spent most of her time pre-Grey’s on the stage performing in Broadway shows like Dreamgirls. In 2005, she won a Tony Award for her role in Spamalot, and joined Grey’s shortly after.
Now: Ramirez has been a member of the Grey’s family as a main cast member since season 3, and also lends her voice to the Disney animated series Sofia the First.
Before: Capshaw starred in the short-lived sitcom Odd Man Out from 1999 to 2000 before taking on a major role in The Practice and appearing in small arcs in Bones and The L Word.
Now: Like everyone else on the show, Capshaw’s Grey’s character hasn’t had the easiest go of it — she lost her leg in the season 8 plane crash — but has still been able to stick around since first appearing on the show in season 5.
Before: The Scottish actor’s first major gig was starring in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, which led to roles in multiple other films — including Made of Honor, a 2008 romantic comedy he appeared in (and donned a kilt) alongside his future costar, Patrick Dempsey.
Now: McKidd’s joined the Grey’s main cast in season 5 and made time to voice Lord MacGuffin in 2012’s Brave.
Before: Williams played heartthrob Leo in 2008’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, and went on to snag some small roles on shows like Law & Order and Greek.
Now: Williams joined Grey’s as Dr. Jackson Avery in season 6, and has spent his time outside the fictional hospital appearing in films including 2013’s The Butler and Snake and Mongoose.
Before: Although Drew first started out as a voice actor on MTV’s Daria, she eventually made her way in front of the camera and was a series regular on the WB’s Everwood.
Now: Like Williams, Drew came onto the Grey’s team in season 6, and most recently also headlined the 2014 comedy Moms’ Night Out.
Before: In addition to his stint on the defunct ‘90s NBC soap opera Sunset Beach, George is most well-known for starring opposite Eve in the musician’s self-titled UPN sitcom, which aired for three seasons between 2003 and 2006. The actor went on to become an ABC veteran: In addition to Grey’s, he had roles on shows like Castle, Desperate Housewives, and Mistresses.
Now: George first appeared on Grey’s in season 6, and has been appearing more and more ever since — and even got promoted to series regular for the upcoming 12th season.