26 surprising facts you didn’t know about ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Grey's Anatomy has been running for over 10 years.

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Grey’s Anatomy has been running for over 10 years.
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ABC

  • “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered on March 27, 2005, and has been on the air for 14 years.
  • So far, there have been 15 seasons, 342 episodes, and even two spinoffs from “Grey’s Anatomy.”
  • Every “Grey’s Anatomy” title is a song title except for one.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Grey’s Anatomy” is the longest-running scripted primetime show on ABC having been on the air since 2005. In that time, it’s had 15 seasons, over 300 episodes, and multiple major doctor deaths.

It’s been a wild, sometimes devastating ride for fans – but they’re still tuning in 14 years later.

According to Variety, a whopping 7.5 million viewers tuned in for the Season 14 finale, which bid farewell to longtime cast members Sarah Drew (April Kepner) and Jessica Capshaw (Arizona Robbins). But even though fans have been watching for over a decade, and likely re-watching thanks to its presence on Netflix and status as a great binge-watching show, there’s no way to know everything about the series.

Not even “Lexipedia” Grey herself could be expected to remember all of these surprising facts about “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Here are 26 things you probably didn’t know about the hit medical drama.


The show’s title comes from a real medical textbook.

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It was called “Gray’s Anatomy.”
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ABC

Gray’s Anatomy,” written by Henry Gray, is still in print today.


“Grey’s Anatomy” wasn’t actually the original show title.

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They changed it three times.
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ABC

Kate Walsh, who played Addison Montgomery on the show, told BuzzFeed that the show’s name was changed three times before “Grey’s Anatomy” was chosen.

“It was ‘Doctors’ and then ‘Surgeons’ and then ‘Complications’ and I was like, ‘What a b——- show title!’ Walsh recounted. “‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is the perfect title.”


A real hospital is used for some scenes.

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The hospital is in LA.
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ABC

The Veterans Administration Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center in California serves as the entrance for Grey Sloan Memorial, according to Los Angeles Magazine. But the interior shots are done on a soundstage at Loz Feliz’s Prospect Studios, according to the outlet.


Only four of the main Season one cast members are still on the show.

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Ellen Pompeo plays Meredith Grey.
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ABC

After over 300 episodes, Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), and James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber) are going strong. R.I.P George, Izzie, and Derek.


Bohkee is a surgical nurse in real life.

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She’s a real surgical nurse.
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ABC

She may not say much, but she’s been a staple background character of the show for years. And according to a tweet from Sandra Oh, who played Cristina Yang, Bokhee really knows what she’s doing. “The nurse in that scene, Bokhee, is a real surgical nurse,” Oh wrote. “She’s been with us since the beginning. She’s like my 2nd mom, she’s the best.”


The show takes its medical scenes seriously.

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The show consults medical advisors.
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ABC/Mitch Haaseth

According to UW Medicine, the show employs real doctors as medical advisors to make sure the writers are getting everything right. But until the advisors filled in the jargon, the writers just put “medical medical” as placeholder text in the script, according to show creator Shonda Rhimes’ book “Year of Yes.”

Rhimes wrote, “Meredith will say, ‘I need a medical medical to medical!’ And someone else will go, ‘Well I have medical medical.’ ‘Well hand me the medical!”

She also revealed that on “Scandal,” it’s “political political.”


The organs and fake blood are made from some pretty nasty materials.

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They use cow organs.
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ABC

To make the surgeries look real, Sarah Drew said that they use cow organs and fake blood made up of chicken fat and red gelatin. “It’s pretty gross,” she admitted, according to RTE.


Katherine Heigl rejected her Emmy nomination for Izzie.

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Katherine Heigl plays “Izzie.”
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Buena Vista Television

In 2008, Heigl opted out of her Emmy nomination for “Grey’s Anatomy.” According to the New York Times, she said in a statement that she didn’t feel the writers had “given [her] the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination” and she “did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.” Per Us Weekly, Heigl left the show shortly after in 2010.


Some of the stars have also directed episodes.

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Ellen Pompeo has directed an episode.
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ABC

According to Bustle, Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), Debbie Allen (Catherine Avery), Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt), Jesse Williams (Jackson Avery), and Meredith Grey herself, Ellen Pompeo, have all directed episodes of the long-running series.


The show may have helped save a real life.

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A girl credited “Grey’s Anatomy.”
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Gene Kim

According to the Hollywood Reporter, a 10-year-old girl successfully administered CPR when her mother had an asthma attack. The daughter credited “Grey’s Anatomy” for showing her the proper steps to save her mom.


And it raised awareness for a critical illness.

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“Can’t Fight This Feeling” features a boy with Kawasaki disease.
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ABC

“Scrubs alum” Sarah Chalke appeared in the season nine episode “Can’t Fight This Feeling” to raise awareness for Kawasaki disease.

According to TV Line, the episode is based on her real-life fighting for answers about her baby’s mystery illness that turned out to be the rare Kawasaki disease. It can kill within days, but her son survived thanks to her finding a web article about Kawasaki symptoms that matched her son’s.

Now Chalke is dedicated to bringing the disease to national attention, especially since there’s such a short window to treat it in. “The Kawasaki doctor we dealt with said they do a news story every year, and often that save lives every year,” Chalke told TV Line. “So she said that this [“Grey’s Anatomy”] episode absolutely is going to save lives. It’s going to save some kids.”


There have been two spinoffs from “Grey’s Anatomy.”

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“Private Practice” is a spinoff.
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ABC

“Private Practice” followed Addison Montgomery’s transfer to a California clinic. It ran for six seasons and ended in 2013.

In 2018, “Station 19” premiered, following Ben Warren as he changed jobs from doctor to firefighter. It was just renewed for a second season according to Deadline.


Derek and Meredith had a real wedding registry.

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Proceeds went to charity.
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ABC

People reported in 2009 that the fictional couple had a real wedding registry on The Knot. It encouraged fans to donate to research organizations that Derek and Meredith would have approved of, like the American Academy of Neurology Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association.


“Grey’s Anatomy” scrubs are used in real hospitals.

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They’re regarded highly.
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ABC

Barco Uniforms and ABC partnered in 2006 to produce hospital-grade scrubs under the “Grey’s Anatomy” label, according to Metro.


Miranda Bailey is based on Shonda Rhimes’ mom.

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Rhimes said Dr. Bailey is a realist like her mom.
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ABC

The beloved chief of surgery has been on the show since Season 1 and came straight from Rhimes’ real life, according to an interview she gave to O magazine.

“She’s very no-nonsense. Dr. Bailey says stuff like ‘These people are nasty – all they think about is sex while we’re trying to save lives here.’ My mother is definitely that kind of realist,” Rhimes said.


Alex Karev was an afterthought.

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He’s been on the show for a long time.
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ABC

Justin Chambers’ character was added in later after the pilot had already been shot, according to TV Guide. Now he’s one of the longest-lasting characters on the show.


Chambers is nothing like his character.

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He has five kids.
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Alberto E. Rodriguez/GettyImages

Karev was long known for his commitment-phobe ways and fear of ever settling down. Meanwhile, Chambers came to the show as a married father of five kids, according to Cosmopolitan.


Every “Grey’s Anatomy” title is a song title… except for one.

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The episode is titled after the hotline for domestic abuse.
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ABC

Since its premiere episode, “A Hard Day’s Night,” every “Grey’s Anatomy” episode has shared its title with a song, according to BuzzFeed.

But one exception was made for the season 14 episode “1-800-799-7233.” It was named for the domestic violence hotline since the episode dealt with Jo Wilson’s abusive ex-husband, per Glamour.


Camilla Luddington, who plays Jo Wilson, is actually British.

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She naturally speaks with a British accent.
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Getty Images / Frazer Harrison

She does an awfully good American accent on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but you can catch her speaking in her native accent in Lifetime’s “William & Kate,” a TV movie about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s love story. Luddington played Kate.


Jesse Williams was a teacher before he played Jackson Avery.

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He taught history.
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ABC

According to Essence, Williams once taught high school history before he made the jump to acting.


Derek Shepherd was almost played by Rob Lowe.

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It’s hard to imagine anyone but Patrick Dempsey.
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ABC

According to E! News, Lowe wrote in his memoir that he was offered the Derek role but turned it down for a CBS show called “Dr. Vegas” that failed to make it.


Rhimes loves to reuse her actors.

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Meredith’s dad is also Cyrus Beene in “Scandal.”
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ABC

Many people who have appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy” have also appeared on Rhimes’ other shows like “Scandal.” Notably, per ScreenRant, Meredith’s dad is also Cyrus Beene in “Scandal,” Teddy’s love interest Henry is also Jake in “Scandal,” and Meredith’s mom is also Sally Langston in “Scandal.” And that’s just to name a few.


Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey didn’t originally know that Derek was married in season one.

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Pompeo was surprised.
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ABC

The first season finale reveals that Derek is still married to Addison Montgomery, a fact that Dempsey didn’t learn until halfway through the season and Pompeo didn’t know until the final episode, according to a behind-the-scenes video. “They didn’t tell me that was coming and I was very surprised,” Pompeo admitted.


A pregnant Sarah Drew gave birth in real life right after filming April’s birth scene.

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She was pregnant in real life.
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ABC

According to Access Hollywood, after shooting April’s labor and delivery over a long 10-hour workday, Drew went home only to find herself in labor for real a few hours later.


Pompeo is the highest paid TV drama actress.

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She makes $20 million a year.
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ABC, Grey’s Anatomy / screenshot

In early 2018, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that a huge contract negotiation for the actor resulted in her being paid $20 million a year. That works out to $575,000 per episode.


As long as Pompeo wants to still make the show, it will go on.

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Pompeo is still doing the show.
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ABC

Rhimes told E! News that she and Pompeo decided that as long as Pompeo wants to keep playing Meredith, Rhimes will keep the show alive.

That means, “if she wants to stop, we’re stopping,” Rhimes said.