Character Sheet for Grey's Anatomy. Characters are listed in order of billing in the credits.
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Dr. Meredith Grey (Portrayed by Ellen Pompeo)
Meredith Grey is the Narrator for the series, giving a voice-over dialogue for every episode (with very few exceptions). Daughter of a world-famous surgeon, she has been dogged by allegations of nepotism—especially after she also found out that she was sleeping with her boss, also-world-class neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd. The show follows her adventures as she attempts to navigate the world of internship (and eventually residency) at Seattle-Grace Hospital. As the star of a medical drama, Meredith deals with a lot of crap.
Ellis Grey was extremely negligent and incredibly harsh to Meredith. As Alzheimer's sets in, we get scenes of her yelling about how little she respects her daughter.
Her father, Thatcher, flat-out abandoned them both in Meredith's childhood and again in adulthood.
Aloof Big Sister: Is this to Lexie at first, but thaws the ice as the two grow closer.
Broken Bird: Whooo boy! One has to wonder if Shonda Rimes has an enemy out there named Meredith Grey for all of the crappy things that happen to Meredith starting from before the show even starts, never mind what comes after.
Character Development: In the fourth season, she starts talking therapy and begins to actually acknowledge and address her problems.
Meredith's BFF—or "person," in the show's parlance—Cristina (no H) is an Insufferable Genius whom Meredith nonetheless takes to. Bluntly sarcastic, Married to the Job and unashamedly ambitious, she has chosen to specialize in heart surgery, and is known to jump at the opportunity to do cutting-edge, impressive operations. Sandra Oh won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for the role after the show's first season.
Cool Teacher: Not only has one in the person of Mr. Feeny, but (much to the audience's surprise) becomes one as an attending surgeon supervising the latest crop of interns.
Defrosting the Ice Queen: We're still in the defrosting process, but she's gotten much, much better. Lampshaded by Bailey in season 9 when she notices Cristina starts to show that she cares about her interns and even gave Bailey relationship advice.
Designated Victim: While there's plenty of trauma to go around the whole cast, it seems like most season have a story arc that causes Cristina to become a sobbing wreck.
Disappeared Dad: Her biological father was killed in a car crash when Cristina was 9. She tried to hold his chest back together with her hands. It didn't work.
Genius Slob: Her personal hygiene is fine as you'd expect of a surgeon but in episode 10 of season 2 we see her apartment is close to Trash of the Titans level of messiness as opposed to Burke's place which she claims would be clean enough to perform surgery in.. She even tells Burke that she hired a maid once, but she ran away.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Cristina and Owen love each other but have faced countless obstacles in their relationship and break up every season (But eventually they get back together. This remains to be seen in Season 10)
A late addition to the pilot (Chambers had to be stitched in during re-shoots), Alex personifies Troubled, but Cute and benefits from the All Girls Want Bad Boys trope. When not sleeping his way through the interns, he's also a pediatrics specialist, suggesting that his Man Child tendencies are good for something.
Freudian Excuse: Had a shitty childhood, with an abusive father, causing him to be put in foster care in his teens. Then he dates a patient who later goes crazy. Just when things start to be looking up for him after getting together with Izzie, she gets cancer, leading to their marriage. Then Izzie gets fired, she leaves him, then gets shot and almost dies in an elevator giving him PTSD. Then his brother has a mental break due to his schizophrenia, trying to kill his sister, causing him to be put in a mental institution. Now he has survivor's guilt after the plane crash, which he was supposed to be on. No wonder he sleeps with interns.
Originally nicknamed "the Nazi" for her no-nonsense attitude, Bailey was gradually revealed to be Not so Above It All. One of the few characters that every other character likes. Has a son, Tuck, by her husband Tucker.
Heroic BSOD: After she accidentally gives several patients a staph infection, leading to their deaths. It's discovered that the gloves mandated by the Corrupt Corporate Executives at Pegasus Holdings were defective, but Bailey still takes it hard. Very hard.
She was once called "The Nazi", because she was the most severe attending of the hospital. She didn't mind being called that, since she likes names that inspire terror. However, after her surgery on a racial supremacist (who had the Nazi swastika tattooed on his torso), she made it pretty clear that no one was allowed to call her that anymore.
Beginning season 9, she has a new nickname, radically different from her ancient one: B.C.B, which stands for Booty Call Bailey. She is not amused when she discovers it.
Mama Bear: Toward her son, Tuck, along with her former interns.
Platonic Life Partners: Miranda will drop everything to help Richard (including operating in emergency on Adele, Richard's wife, on her wedding day), and Richard is very protective of her. Their relation is so strong that Adele actually wondered if Richard didn't cheat on her with Miranda. Also, in season 9, Miranda takes it very hard when she believes Richard turned his back on her, something which pushed her even deeper into her massive Heroic BSOD.
Runaway Bride: Was engaged to marry Ben. Didn't at first, because Adele came into the hospital, but eventually did.
Dr. Richard Webber (Portrayed by James Pickens Jr.)
The Chief of Surgery at Seattle Grace, Dr. Webber is just as no-nonsense, and just as secretly-a-Team Dad, as Bailey is. A well-respected surgeon who has spent most of his career in Seattle, he also carried on a long-term affair with Meredith's mother Ellis, while his own wife Adele looked the other way. He is also the closest thing to a father figure Meredith has.
The Alcoholic: Recovering but fell off the wagon in season six, he gets better.
Da Chief: Stepped down in season six after falling off the wagon, and in season eight to take the fall for Meredith after she tampers with Derek's clinical trial.
Love Triangle: Between Adele and Ellis. Notable for being part of his Back Story and for having gone on for a very long time.
Badass Teacher: God help you if you ever threaten his hospital and his students.
Cool Teacher: Was one to Miranda during her internship, and the two of them developed a strong relationship based on mutual respect and actual friendship.
Morality Pet: Meredith. As Derek notes, Richard is the picture of professionalism in all things regarding the hospital, except for when something concerns Meredith Grey.
Not so Above It All: There is one instance where he helps Alex to pull off pranks on a male nurse who Alex really dislikes. He became quite more relaxed ever since he forwent his job as Chief of Surgery.
Richard (to Alex, after catching him in the act of pulling pranks): You need to step up your game.
Platonic Life Partners: Miranda will drop everything to help Richard (including operating in emergency on Adele, Richard's wife, on her wedding day), and Richard is very protective of her. Their relation is so strong that Adele actually wondered if Richard didn't cheat on her with Miranda. Also, in season 9, Miranda takes it very hard when she believes Richard turned his back on her, something which pushed her even deeper in her massive Heroic BSOD.
Our first sight of Meredith Grey, in the pilot episode, was of her waking up naked on the couch, realizing she was late for her first day as an intern at Seattle Grace, and shooing her one-night-stand partner out the door. Our first sight of Derek Shepherd, new Seattle Grace hire and God Of Neurosurgery, was when Meredith was assigned to his service and recognized him as her one-night-stand partner. Despite Meredith's concerns over sleeping with her boss, the two entered into a functional relationship... Only to have it disrupted by the arrival of Derek's estranged-but-still-legally-wed ex. And then the second season started and things got really complicated.
Mr. Fanservice: Had a couple scenes where he was shirtless, and even one scene when he is supposedly completly naked because he and Meredith were making out in the living room and were caught during the act. With time passing, he no longer provided this service, leaving this job to Mark Sloan and Avery.
Love Triangle: With Meredith on one corner and either Addison or Nurse Rose on the other.
One of the first new characters to be added to the cast, Dr. Torres first appears in the second season as a Love Interest to George, who at the time had just had a chance to consummate his crush on Meredith—she was having a weak moment, with the end result that it Went Horribly Wrong. Needless to say, Callie looks appealing by contrast. An orthopedics specialist, Callie lives in the basement of Seattle Grace to save on rent and get a jump on awesome overnight surgeries. She frequently acts as a conscience to the other characters.
Full-Name Basis: Well full first name, Arizona is the only regular character to call her Calliope instead of Callie at least to begin with, though eventually she does start using Callie too with Calliope only being used occasionally.
Dr. Arizona Robbins (Portrayed by Jessica Capshaw)
An attending physician in pediatrics, Arizona was raised in a military family and was named after a battleship. She is The Spock to Callie's McCoy, despite being typically more upbeat and childlike in comparison, and the two have formed a stable marriage together.
An Arm and a Leg: The plane crash results with her having her left leg amputated above the knee
Heroic BSOD: Following her amputation, she just lies on her bed, doesn't seem to leave her apartment, which she still shares with Callie, and doesn't take care of her daughter. She harbors a lot of resentment towards Callie too, and not even the death of Mark seems to move her.
Token Minority: Not for Grey's itself, which actually has a more racially diverse cast that Real Life Seattle, but for the television industry as a whole: when Robbins was Promoted to Opening Titles, she became the only lesbian starring character on primetime television.
Your Cheating Heart: On Callie with Dr. Lauren Boswell at the end of Season 9. The marriage ain't so stable now.
Dr. Owen Hunt (Portrayed by Kevin McKidd)
A former Combat Medic who toured in Iraq, Hunt serves as Seattle Grace's foremost trauma surgeon. He has an aggressive, sometimes-unorthodox training style and a lot of confidence, which endeared him to Cristina. However, he wants children and she doesn't, which has proved to be a source of friction in the past.
The Atoner: For the plane crash, with a dose of trying to avert the Bystander Syndrome, after discovering that he signed off on changing the charter company contract without bothering to check the new company's safety records.
Sole Survivor: After his first appearance, he returned to Iraq, where his entire unit was slain.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Suffered from PTSD upon his return. This was his major arc throughout season five.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Cristina and Owen love each other but have faced countless obstacles in their relationship and break up every season (But eventually they get back together. This remains to be seen in Season 10)
10-Minute Retirement: In Season Nine, in protest of the other characters' ten-minute retirements. His is even shorter than theirs, lasting less than an episode.
Your Cheating Heart: Sleeps with a patient's friend while angry with Cristina over her abortion.
Dr. Jackson Avery (Portrayed by Jesse Williams)
One of four new residents introduced in Season Six after Seattle Grace merges with the nearby Mercy-West hospital, Jackson was originally viewed by the main characters as interference and competition. Time and familiarity have made him more accepted, however, and he is currently a plastic-surgery fellow. Though his grandfather is the famous Harper Avery (of the Harper Avery Foundation, and the Harper Avery Award), and his mother the nearly-as-famous Catherine Avery, Jackson was never pushed much because he was "just the pretty one," and became a driven surgeon of his own accord.
Big Brother Instinct: To April, following her nearly losing her virginity to Alex, causing him to punch Alex in the face.
Disappeared Dad: Abandoned him after he couldn't handle the pressure of being an Avery. His mother Catherine (who presumably married into the family, since she still goes by Avery today) raised him single-handedly.
You Are in Command Now: The bankruptcy plot is resolved when the Harper Avery Foundation buys out the hospital, unexpectedly resulting in Jackson becoming chairman of the board.
Dr. April Kepner (Portrayed by Sarah Drew)
Another of the newly-introduced residents, April has gone on to be a trauma surgeon. She is principled, hard-working, neurotic and—quite surprisingly for the show—a 28-year-old virgin, by choice. Rhimes created the character as a Designated Monkey to be disliked and fired after two episodes, but changed her mind and kept her around; this might explain the audience's Love It or Hate It response to the character.
Break the Cutie: To start, getting fired, tripping over the body of her best friend and getting covered in her blood during the season 6 finale. Then in season eight, she loses her virginity to Jackson, the guilt over breaking her promise to Jesus causes her to fail her boards, causing her to get fired by Owen and all of her offers rejected.
Second Love: Matthew, an EMT who is also waiting for marriage.
Wacky Marriage Proposal: Matthew arranges a flashmob to the tune of The Proclaimers' "(I Would Walk) Five Hundred Miles", which Meredith declares true proof that he and April are perfect for each other. She accepts.
Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington))
One of a new crop of interns introduced in Season 9 and Promoted to Opening Titles in Season 10, Jo seems to have it all together, with Alex mockingly calling her "Princess." But this is Grey's Anatomy, of course she has a Dark and Troubled Past.
The Establishing Character Moment for Isobel Stevens came in the fourth episode of the show, after Alex discovered that she modeled lingerie under the stage name "Bethany Whisper" and pasted her pin-ups all over the hospital. Izzie stripped down to her underwear and castigated the other characters for their sexism, pointing out that her modeling career has allowed her to escape the bank-breaking student loans they all have to live with. She then embarked on an ill-fated relationship with heart-transplant patient Denny Duquette, in the process earning the show one of its two acting Emmys. However, Heigl wanted to focus on her family and burgeoning film career, and asked to be written out.
Bridezilla: An unusual version in that she's not even the bride: Meredith passed to Izzie all planning for her wedding as a way to cheer her up and keep her busy during chemo. (Conveniently, the Why Waste a Wedding? trope pops in later.)
Hospital Hottie: She was even a model, which is why she had no student debt like the others.
I Have This Friend: She gives her interns information about "Patient X" as a way of both teaching them and figuring out what's wrong with her. Also, unusually for this trope, none of the interns ever make the connection that she is Patient X.
Ill Girl: ...Though they do figure out that she has skin cancer.
I See Dead People: Hallucinates Denny throughout the fifth season, which seems to be evidence that she's simply gone mad. Actually, the cancer has reached her brain.
Never Live It Down: Invoked. After she cuts the wire on Denny's LVAD, other characters rib her about it endlessly. Having said that, in a real hospital this would have resulted in legal action and possibly jail time, not just a (voluntary) resignation followed by probation, so if anything she's a Karma Houdini by way of the Rule of Drama.
Put on a Bus: Following being fired she divorces Alex and leaves.
Commuting on a Bus: Returned a few times before leaving for good in the twelfth episode of season six. Heigl has since mentioned that she would be open to doing a few more appearances to wrap up loose ends, but Rhimes says it's unlikely, as bringing her back in would disrupt her long-term plans for the show.
Teen Pregnancy: Revealed in an early episode. Later, she gave her daughter a needed bone marrow transplant.
Dr. George O'Malley (Portrayed by T.R. Knight)
One of the original five interns, George was the token nice guy, nursing a very visible crush on Meredith. He then moved on to Callie but ended up caught between her and and Izzie, failed his intern exams, and struck up a friendship with Lexie after being, essentially, held back a year. Eventually he decided to join the Army as a trauma surgeon and save lives. Which he did.
A Day in the Limelight: The first character to provide voice-over narration besides Meredith. Since then, a number of others have gotten to as well.
Izzie: *walking in on George bent over a gurney with his pants down* "What are we doing?" Meredith: *poised at his backside with penicillin syringe* "Curing George's syph." George: "Breaking George's spirit."
He Cleans Up Nicely: YMMV, but, on any given day George can come off looking kind of sweaty and pudgy and unkempt. But seeing him showered and in a suit, especially his army uniform, WHOA.
Hope Spot: Has saved a girl by literally throwing himself in front of a bus, has joined the Army to save lives, and the girl is now enamored of her Knight in Shining Armor. ...In the finale of Season 5, where he dies.
Love Triangle: Between his best friend Izzie and his actual wife Callie.
Dr. Preston Burke (Portrayed by Isaiah Washington)
The head of cardiothoracic surgery, Burke was ambitious and sometimes arrogant, with his eye set on succeeding Richard as the Chief of Surgery. He and Cristina started a quirky, intense relationship that would have led to marriage if he hadn't done that "leave your bride at the altar" thing.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Isaiah Washington was summarily fired at the end of Season Three for homophobic slurs against T. R. Knight. Thus Burke leaves Cristina at the altar and sends his mother to collect his things.
Dr. Addison Montgomery Shepherd (Portrayed by Kate Walsh)
Addison knows how to make an entrance: her first line was also the last line of Season 1, and a Wham Line: "Hi, I'm Addison Shepherd. And you must be the woman who's been screwing my husband." The story of How She Got Here is gradually explained over the next few years: she and Derek married right out of med school, and she eventually cheated on him with his best friend. Derek walked away without even bothering to file for divorce, and she carried on with the best friend until realizing she still loved her husband and wanted him back. An opening in OB/GYN at Seattle Grace was the perfect opportunity. The Triang Relations continued for some time, and while Meredith won Derek, Addison got a consolation prize: her own Spin-Off, Private Practice, which was set in Los Angeles and ran for six seasons before wrapping up in 2013.
Last Episode New Character: Though she still got first billing in the guest-star list, despite appearing onscreen for all of 20 seconds.
Odd Friendship: Poised, composed Addison with down-to-earth, irreverent Callie. Also provides a Meta Twist: unusually for this show, which per Word of God is about "smart women competing with each other," their friendship does not have Drama Bombs dropped on it every other episode.
Your Cheating Heart: While Derek was quite obviously hurt about it, he eventually admitted that his own emotional distance from Addie did not help things.
Dr. Mark Sloan (Portrayed by Eric Dane)
The "McSteamy" to Derek's McDreamy, the two have been close for a very long time; he even served as best man at Derek's wedding to Addison. ...And then was the "best friend" she cheated on Derek with. His presence as a Guest Star in the second season caused quite some strain (Derek punched him), but after he joined Seattle Grace's permanent staff they were able to patch up. This on-and-off-again pattern kind of set the tone for all his other relationships: with Callie, his Platonic Life Partner with whom he had a daughter, Sofia; and with Lexie, his most long-standing romantic entanglement. Mark was written out during the first two episodes of Season Nine, possibly at Dane's behest and possibly because Executive Meddling reduced the show's budget.
Anyone Can Die: In the Season 9 opener after spending 30 days in a coma, Derek and Callie pull his plug as he requested in his Living Will
Anything That Moves: To the point that the nurses actually unionized against his love-em-and-leave-em attitude.
Bailey (to said nurses): I would like to offer my thoughts on Dr. Sloan. This man is a whore. Has always been a whore and probably always will be a whore. But I mean that's not a secret. He's not keeping it hidden. (...) He's nasty.
Dr. Alexandra "Lexie" Grey (Portrayed by Chyler Leigh)
Meredith's half-sister was produced after their mutual father, Thatcher, re-married without telling Ellis. She and Meredith initially had a frosty relationship, due in no small part to Meredith's Parental Abandonment issues, but the two eventually became quite close. Sweet, emotional and featuring a photographic memory, Lexie became something of a Tagalong Kid for the five interns, forming a relationship with Jackson and a crush on George. Her most enduring romantic entanglement, though, was with Mark Sloan. Chyler Leigh, who is kind of Crazy Awesome in real life, eventually decided to move on to other projects, but not before helping to contribute to the Season Eight finale, one of the whammiest Wham Episodes of the series.
Early-Bird Cameo: Appears in the last two episodes of Season 3, before her formal introduction in the Season 4 premiere.
Extreme Doormat: Goes out of her way to befriend Meredith in Season 4, including eating an omelet made by Meredith. This puts on a new spin on "Lethal Chef" because Lexie, who knows she is allergic to eggs, ate the thing anyway.
Foreshadowing: Lexie's younger sister, Molly, appears in Season 2, mentioning her older sister who is in med school at Harvard. Considering that Lexie herself didn't appear for another two seasons, this was either Shonda Rhimes planning out her Myth Arc or planting a Schrödinger's Gun.
As mentioned, Meredith doesn't know her father remarried. Cristina drops the Wham Line on her: "Did you meet your sister?" Molly herself doesn't learn of the relation until her return appearance.
Photographic Memory: She has such a prodigious ability that she remembers everything, even minor details. This allowed her to ace her residency exam. She got pretty famous among her colleagues thanks to it, and they frequently refer to her as Lexipedia.
Burke's former rival, and replacement head of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Hahn was a workaholic who ran Cristina ragged, partially because Cristina reminded her of herself. She became romantically involved with Callie before being unceremoniously written out in the middle of Season Five. Members of the press, and Brooke Smith herself, have alleged Executive Meddling and an attempt to "de-gay" the show, though creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes claims it was the natural end of Hahn's character arc.
Ascended Extra: Had a few appearances in seasons two and three before becoming a regular in the fifth episode of season four.
Chekhov's Gunman: Not only Hahn herself, but also her patient—he was supposed to get the heart Izzie stole for Denny.
Defrosting Ice Queen: Throughout season four she was a massive bitch toward Cristina, banning her from her OR. After Richard telling her that she needed to be a better teacher and starting a relationship with Callie, she became more likeable.
This Is Unforgivable: Her reaction when she learns of Izzie's LVAD antics: she criticizes Webber's administration and demands Izzie be fired. Webber shoots her down, and when Callie defends the hospital and Izzie (in that order) as well, Erica gives up.
What Could Have Been: Sandra Oh (Cristina) had played Brooke Smith's lesbian lover in an unrelated production, and the two mentioned that they would be comfortable with their characters hooking up.
Dr. Teddy Altman (Portrayed by Kim Raver)
Theodora Altman is a friend of Owen's, having served as a trauma surgeon alongside him in the Army. Hired as a new head of cardiothoracic surgery and a mentor for Cristina, she initially saw Yang as a rival due to her own unrequited feelings for Owen. Later she got involved with Henry Burton, an ill man with a rare disorder, and married him so that he could take advantage of her health insurance. This was really the only thing she did on the show, which might explain why Kim Raver did not accept a contract renewal when the option was offered her.
Action Girl: Prior to her first appearance, she was in the Army along with Owen.
Meredith's mother, introduced in the pilot episode as the person Meredith is narrating the show to. This got dropped, but the fact that Mrs. Grey has early-onset Alzheimer's did not. This simply adds to Meredith's troubles, as one of Ellis's last (lucid) thoughts was that she wanted her condition kept secret. And, as of the pilot episode, she doesn't have a lot of lucid thoughts anymore.
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: At the end of "The Time Warp" she and Webber have a drink at Joe's in memory of their deceased patient, when she sees Webber has a club soda she tells him it's not an appropriate drink to toast an Irishman with and orders him a vodka. It's not explicitly said but it seems from his reaction that Webber may have known he had a problem and been sober at that time.
Thatcher Grey (Jeff Perry) and Susan Grey (Mare Winningham)
Meredith's spineless father and his new wife. Though Thatcher is typically too intimidated to bond with Meredith, Susan did her best for both of them, alternately pleasing and confounding her stepdaughter with attachment-style parenting. They have two daughters, Lexie (see above) and Molly (Mandy Siegfried).
Webber's long-suffering wife. Richard believed that he was able to keep his affair with Ellis secret from her, but discovered in the second season how wrong he was. He stayed with her out of honor, though. Like Richard's other great love, she too develops Alzheimer's, and eventually needs to be committed to an assisted-living facility. She earned the show its other Emmy as a Guest Actress.
Undying Loyalty: To her husband. He shows it back, though in different ways.
Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)
A major character in the second season, Dennison Duquette had congestive heart failure spent several years waiting for a transplant. After he arrived at Seattle Grace, he and Izzie fell in love, leading her to (essentially) short-circuit the mechanical bits of his failing heart to bump him to the top of the transplant list. It worked, but then he died anyway, which was a very upbeat and happy way to end the second season.
"Jane Doe" / "Ava" / Rebecca Pope (Elizabeth Reaser)
A character introduced in the third season, she was a victim of the same ferry-boat crash that almost killed Meredith. Pregnant and amnesiac, she was brought back to the hospital for repairs and facial reconstruction surgery, during which time she and Alex became involved.
Domestic Abuser: The father of her child, which is why she fled. Makes it a little less understandable why she eventually went back to him instead of staying with Alex.
An anesthesiologist from Mercy West, introduced in the 6th season during the merger arc. He quickly becomes romantically involved with Bailey, though this becomes complicated by his dreams of pursuing a further education and becoming a full-blown surgeon.
Family Versus Career: a Rare Male Example. Chooses "family" by quitting his residency and resuming his old job at Seattle Grace Mercy West Grey Sloan. Even more interestingly, Miranda calls him on it, feeling very disappointed that he gave up surgery for her and her son.