Why did Addison Montgomery leave Grey's Anatomy as character returns?

Kate Walsh famously took on the role of Dr. Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy in the first season of the show but eventually left - here is why

Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy
(Image credit: ABC)

The drama never ends on Grey’s Anatomy.

Just a few weeks following Meredith Grey’s decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy after 18 years, fans were shocked to see another iconic character actually make her comeback on the show: Dr. Addison Montgomery, played by the wonderful Kate Walsh, who actually announced her return a while back.

Audience member first met Addison back in May of 2005, during her first appearance on the series during the season one finale of the show.

Introduced as the now late Derek Shepherd's estranged wife, the character quickly became a series regular during season two while in a love triangle with Derek and Meredith. 

Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy

(Image credit: ABC)

Since then, though, Kate has been on and off the show, eventually landing her very own spin-off series, Private Practice, also by Shonda Rhimes, that lasted a total of six seasons.


After being promoted to series regular during season two of Grey's Anatomy, Addison was part and parcel of story lines through the season three finale - Something to Talk About, when the idea of her departure was first introduced concretely. 

In fact, as fans may remember, Addison’s disappointment with her own love life and her overall feelings of loneliness led her to visit a fertility specialist, Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald). 

The character then decided to leave Seattle, where Grey's Anatomy is still set, and move to Los Angeles to join Naomi’s practice, Oceanside Wellness, which she established with her husband Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs). The two personalities made up the cast of Private Practice as well.

Although officially off the show and leading her own TV series, Kate did continue to make cameos on Grey's Anatomy until season eight. 

Years later, as fans geared up for the premiere of season 18, they learned via social media that Addison was set to return to Seattle for a total of three episodes.


Addison made yet another appearance on Grey’s Anatomy season 19, reprising her role to much fanfare. 

Addison Montgomery on Grey's Anatomy

(Image credit: ABC)

Specifically, in episode 11 of season 19, Addison comes back to Seattle as she travels through states to help women within the reproductive healthcare system following the overturning of Roe v Wade. (In true Grey's Anatomy fashion, story lines completely rely on real-world facts).

The character immediately reveals that’s she’s been having a very hard time as pro-life supporters have broken into her home, threatening her and her family because of her work - hence her decision to wear a bulletproof vest while on the job.

At the end of the episode, which just aired this week, Addison and a fellow doctor are hurt and fans are left with a cliffhanger that has them wonder whether the beloved character will even survive. 

As the trailer for episode 12 shows, Addison seems to have incurred a lot of injuries and will likely need surgery as all her friends, and doctors, rally around her to try and save her life. 

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.