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Why Justin Chambers’ Alex Karev Wasn’t Killed Off ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (Exclusive)

Saying goodbye to Alex Karev. The Thursday, March 5, episode of Grey’s Anatomy revealed that Justin Chambers‘ character had left his life in Seattle behind for Izzie (Katherine Heigl) and their two children.

Related: Every 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Who's Left: Where Are They Now?

It’s safe to say that fans on social media weren’t thrilled about the departure, but there was a reason that the character was given that exit as opposed to being killed off.

Why Justin Chambers Wasnt Killed Off Greys Anatomy
Justin Chambers on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. ABC/Richard Cartwright

“The reason he wasn’t killed off is because Shonda Rhimes is leaving the door open for a return, in any capacity, if he wants to come back,” an insider exclusively tells Us Weekly.

Chambers, 49, announced his exit in January, revealing in a statement that he wanted to move on to other projects after 16 years on the show.

Related: 'Grey's Anatomy': Alex and Izzie's Timeline

“Justin has struggled for years because of the grueling schedule of filming Grey’s,” the source says of the medical drama’s work schedule that can often go about 14 hours a day. “It has taken a toll.”

A second insider adds that Chambers’ exit “had nothing to do with the show, cast or producers,” but simply that he wanted to take care of himself.

Why Justin Chambers Wasnt Killed Off Greys Anatomy
Justin Chambers and Katherine Heigl on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Eric Mccandless/Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

“That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey’s Anatomy as it is for the fans. We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers’ nuanced portrayal of him,” showrunner Krista Vernoff said in a statement to Us following the episode. “For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev. We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends. We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world.”

While Camilla Luddington, who plays Karev’s wife who he left via letter, has yet to speak out about the choice, she posted a photo on Instagram of her reading a new script on Saturday, March 7.

Related: 'Grey's Anatomy' Behind-the-Scenes Drama Through the Years

When a fan commented, “I love that we still have Jo can’t wait to see what’s next for her,” she was quick to respond, “The scripts for Jo this season are [shock emoji]! JUST. WAIT.”

Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.

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