By Dave Quinn
August 17, 2018 at 11:28 AM EDT
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Sarah Drew isn’t holding any grudges after her surprising departure from Grey’s Anatomy

The 37-year-old actress, who played Dr. April Kepner for nine seasons on the long-running ABC medical drama, sat down with the Hollywood Reporter for her first interview since she was written off the show this past spring.

While Drew admitted that she cried after hearing the news, she said she’s ultimately at peace with the decision.

I’m a believer in things happening for a reason and finding beauty in the midst of grief,” she told the outlet. “I don’t regret or begrudge anybody this season of my life. I’m embracing it.”

“I had a profound and incredible season of my life on Grey’s Anatomy,” Drew added. “I got to tell stories I believed in. I got to work with [producers] Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers and learn from the best. I got to work with an incredible community of people that I will have lifelong friendships with. I got to build a platform and have my children in an environment where I was cared for because of who Shonda is and how she takes care of her mamas and her women. It’s hard for me to come up with anything I could be angry about.”

RELATED VIDEO: Ellen Pompeo slams implication her pay rise led to Grey’s Anatomy staff shakeup

Drew left Grey’s Anatomy along with fellow cast member Jessica Capshaw, who portrayed Dr. Arizona Robbins for 10 seasons.

Uproar on social media followed when their exits were announced, many speculating that cuts were made to compensate for series lead Ellen Pompeo’s $20 million salary. Pompeo vigorously denied that, with Rhimes and executive producer/showrunner Krista Vernoff both stressing that the actress’ exits were strictly creative decisions.

That’s how it was described to Drew too.

“I was told that the show had too many characters and that they needed to downsize because they couldn’t service all of the characters effectively,” she said to the Hollywood Reporter. “They didn’t want any of us to be left in the background and not getting much of a story. Because there were so many series regulars, they needed to downsize and to find some characters that they felt like they could tie up their stories well.”

“Krista Vernoff said that she felt like April had been through so much and had come out the other side and that she didn’t know what she could put her through again,” Drew continued. “It was really hard to hear that. But Krista had a lot of very complimentary things to say about the work that I had done — especially this past season — and that April was going to have her happy ending.”

April’s ending? Getting hitched to Matthew (Justin Bruening) and quitting her job — something Drew wasn’t exactly happy with at first.

“In the midst of it, I was devastated that Jackson (Jesse Williams) and April wasn’t an endgame,” she told the outlet. “I thought Jackson and April were meant to get back together and they were going to get married again and realize they’d been crazy and it was just going to be this long, slow burn.”

Looking back on it now, though, Drew has had a change of heart.

“There’s a real sweetness to that story of April’s faith,” Drew said to the Hollywood Reporter. “She ran off with Jackson and loved him and wouldn’t regret a single second of that relationship because it made her heart grow and she got a beautiful daughter out of it. She grew as a woman and as a person of faith. All of that had to happen. But there was something beautiful about the redemption story between April and Matthew. She hurt him worse than anybody had ever hurt him by walking away from him [at their wedding]. For there to be reconciliation from that scenario? That’s a really beautiful redemption story that there could be forgiveness there. He lost his wife and then finds his first love again. It’s lovely.”

Since leaving Grey’s, Drew has actually received an Emmy nomination for the series short form offshoot B-Team, which she directed. She says the experience of learning to direct — which she was actually doing the day she learned about her departure — and getting the Emmy nomination has given her career a “beautiful rebirth.”

“My confidence had gotten a bit shaken in the wake of being let go and the nomination after the fact made me go, ‘I don’t need to be worried about anything or have my confidence shaken,’ ” she said. “I’m not only pursuing my career as an actor but I’m now also walking into this world as a director and as a producer and the world is so wide open. … I don’t need to be sad and I don’t need to be mourning and I don’t need to be in grief over the end of something that was so beautiful. I can just rise from the ashes in a more brilliant way.”

In fact, Drew admitted that leaving Grey’s the way she did was the right thing in the long run.

“[Being let go] was painful when it happened, but, in retrospect, I think it would have been hard for me to walk away from that job,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “I was on it for nine years. It feels right and it feels like a good time to move on to something else with all the great love in my heart that I have for everybody and respect and gratitude for what that experience was. Playing a character for nine years is a long haul.”

Meredith. Alex. Bailey. Arizona. The doctors are definitely in on Shonda Rhimes' hospital melodrama.
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