Fans are devastated that this Grey's Anatomy character is departing the show

What does this mean for the other Grey's Anatomy characters? (Warning: spoilers ahead)

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in Grey's Anatomy
(Image credit: Mitch Haaseth / Contributor via Getty Images)

After playing Dr Jackson Avery for 12 Seasons, Jesse Williams has announced he is leaving ABC's Grey's Anatomy—prompting fans to wonder if the beloved character will be killed off. (It looks like he's in the clear based on the show's most recent episode.)

In a statement about his departure, Williams said, "I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow cast mates, our incredible crew, Krista [Vernoff], Ellen [Pompeo] and Debbie [Allen]. 

"As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds

"The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I’ll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies and dear friends."

The news came as Sarah Drew, who plays Jackson's ex-wife Dr April Kepner, briefly reprised her role in Grey's Anatomy Season 17, much to the delight of viewers. (Warning: spoilers ahead)

Jesse Williams and Sarah Drew as Jackson Avery and April Kepner in Grey's Anatomy Season 17

(Image credit: Richard Cartwright/Contributor via Getty Images)

During the most recent episode, which has just aired in the US, Jackson visited his estranged father in Montana for an emotional showdown with his father. 

He then visited his ex-wife and their daughter, Harriet, where he dropped the bombshell that he wants to leave his role as Head of Plastic Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial. He now plans to take over the Catherine Fox Foundation, which in turn means relocating to Boston. Bye, Seattle!

When did Jackson Avery join Grey's Anatomy?

Long-term fans of the show will recall that Williams joined the cast as Jackson Avery in Season 6, one of the new residents who joined the team when Mercy West was merged with then Seattle Grace Hospital. He was working the day of the shooting, in which two of his Mercy West colleagues, Charles Percy and Reed Adamson, were killed.

Jackson specialized in plastic surgery and went on to become head of the department at Grey Sloan Memorial, following in the footsteps of his former mentor, Dr Mark Sloan.  

Jackson Avery, Sandra Oh and Sara Ramirez as Jackson Avery, Cristina Yang and Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy

(Image credit: Randy Holmes / Contributor via Getty Images)

More from woman&home:
How to watch The Handmaid's Tale Season 4 online wherever you are
When is This Is Us back? Here's when the next episode will finally air
How to watch Line of Duty in the US (and rest of the world)

His most notable romantic relationship was with April Kepner, who he married between Seasons 14 and 15. The pair lost their first child, Samuel, who had type 2 osteogenesis imperfecta, shortly after he was born. They then went on to have another child, Harriet, who is now three.

During his character arc, he also had relationships with Lexie Grey and Maggie Pearce, as well as Vic Hughes from Grey's Anatomy's sister show, Station 19.

We're excited to hear what Jesse Williams does next!

Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for the likes of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, OK!, Women's Health and more, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare tips to the latest product launches and the show-stopping beauty looks spotted backstage at London Fashion Week. During her career she's interviewed some seriously famous faces, from Little Mix to Drag Race royalty The Vivienne, as well as chatting to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists.