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Ex-'Grey's Anatomy' star Sarah Drew opens up about 'grief' after being fired

Drew played Dr. April Kepner on "Grey's Anatomy" for nine seasons before being let go, but has bounced back after her "B-Team" project was nominated for an Emmy.
/ Source: TODAY

Sarah Drew really loved playing April on "Grey's Anatomy," and she loved it for nine seasons, until they abruptly let her go earlier in 2018.

The break was not easy, and she got the news while she was following actor and director Kevin McKidd around, "shadowing" him as he directed.

Sarah Drew on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"
Sarah Drew as April Kepner on "Grey's Anatomy"Eric McCandless / ABC via Getty Images

"I went back to my trailer and I did my crying and called my people," she told The Hollywood Reporter in her first interview since she left "Grey's." "A whole bunch of people came into my trailer to give me hugs and cry with me."

Here are some of my favorite people on the planet. While shooting this scene my heart was so full of joy and sadness at the same time that it was almost unbearable. As I was looking up at all of these beautiful faces, smiling down at me with so much love, happy to see April alive and well, I was overcome with sadness about the reality of not being with all of these people in the same place in the same way ever again. But, I was ALSO overcome with the joy of having had the opportunity in my life to know such gorgeous people whom I have loved, who have loved me so well for 9 years. During a break in the scene, I felt the tears coming and I looked over and made eye contact with Caterina and Chandra and they whisked me away and let me feel my feelings all over them. It was such a sweet moment of friendship. What I keep experiencing since the moment I was let go, is the tremendous joy that is present in the midst of my sorrow. It felt horrible to be asked to leave my family of 9 years, and I have experienced real, deep grief over it, BUT I have ALSO been so buoyed up by my cast, my crew, the fans, and my family in such extraordinary ways, that I wouldn’t trade any moment of it for the world. I keep describing my experience over the last two months as being “love-bombed” because between the conversations, the hugs, the letters, the tweets, the plane(!), that’s truly what I’ve felt. Love-bombed. In the wake of being let go, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude, and I’ve felt profoundly loved. I am so humbled and so thankful. Get ready for so many more pics and love notes next week. ❤️❤️❤️

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She said she'd been told the show "had too many characters and that they needed to downsize." April had been through a lot, and Drew said she was promised a happy ending for the character she'd been playing since 2009.

But it wasn't quite the ending she'd expected. "In the midst of it, I was devastated that Jackson (played by Jesse Williams) and April wasn't an endgame," she said. "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."

Sarah Drew and Jesse Williams on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"
Drew was sure that April and Jackson (Jesse Williams) would reunite.Richard Cartwright / ABC

Instead, it turned out that there was a whole redemption story to play out with Matthew instead, something she says in retrospect is "lovely."

"I wish that we had gotten to see more of their journey before they got married," she said of April and Matthew. "... But part of me will always be a little heartbroken that April and Jackson were not endgame."

Still, her downtime was relatively brief: After learning she'd been let go from the show, she returned to work the next day to continue shadowing McKidd. Suddenly, she was cast as Cagney in the "Cagney & Lacey" reboot!

And two months after her final appearance on the ABC medical drama aired, she got another boost after her "Grey's" short form web series "B-Team" was nominated for an Emmy.

So. Much. Joy.

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"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.

Now, having time to think about leaving "Grey's," Drew says some of the wounds are healed.

Sarah Drew at 300th episode celebration for ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"
Drew at a celebration for "Grey's Anatomy" in 2017 in Los AngelesMichael Tran / FilmMagic

"The nomination in the midst of walking out into the world and feeling like I'm engaging in this beautiful rebirth was more affirmation that this is a good space in my life right now; that 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," she said. "I can just rise from the ashes in a more brilliant way."

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