There's a reason why Grey's Anatomy (opens in new tab) is the longest-running primetime medical drama of all time. Since 2005, the show has offered viewers suspenseful health mysteries, interoffice love stories, epic laughs, and much-needed sobs. In honor of one of the most popular shows of all time, we've rounded up 45 behind-the-scenes photos from the set of the show—from the pilot episode all the way to the current season. (Yes, there are 16 of them and counting.)
2005: The Pilot
Back in 2005, it was hard to predict that a medical drama about residents at a Seattle hospital would become the longest-running primetime show on television. But that's exactly what happened. This is one of the first photos from the set of the series 15 years ago.
2005: The Cast
After the first episode, the casting seemed *chef's kiss* perfect. We later found out that Sandra Oh was originally offered the role of Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson), but asked to audition (opens in new tab) for Cristina instead. Meanwhile, show creator Shonda Rhimes added the part of Alex Karev a year after the pilot was shot (opens in new tab).
2005: Becoming Meredith Grey
Ellen Pompeo is the highest-paid actress on TV thanks to Meredith Grey—but she almost turned it down.
"I was offered the role of Meredith. I had done a movie for the studio called Moonlight Mile, so the studio was aware of me. Then...I met Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman...We sat down and talked about me possibly doing an arc on Alias. That didn't happen. Bob and Alex wrote a show called Secret Service," Pompeo told TV Guide (opens in new tab). "I really wanted to do that and the studio really wanted me to do Grey's instead. I wanted to do the Secret Service pilot that didn't go, of course; me and my brilliant choices. I read Grey's and I went and met Shonda and I decided to come on and do this. It was just an invitation and I happily accepted."
2005: Developing the Characters
There was a lot of pressure put on Chandra Wilson to nail the role of Miranda Bailey, as the character was based on Shonda Rhimes's mother—you know, the show's creator, executive producer, and head writer. "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 told O, The Oprah Magazine (opens in new tab).
2005: The Set
The patient's rooms, the doctor's lounge, and the apartments are filmed on Los Angeles sets. However, a real hospital set is used at times to bring Seattle Grace to life.
2005: Making It Realistic
The crew of Grey's Anatomy use aerial cameras to film the scenes on the operating table and the producers consult with medical professionals (opens in new tab) to make sure it all looks realistic.
2005: Going to the Golden Globes
The president of Touchstone Television joins the cast and crew in-between takes to congratulate them on their Golden Globe nominations after their first season.
2005: Hello, McDreamy
Patrick Dempsey almost didn't land the part of McDreamy. Initially, the role of Derek Shepherd was offered to Rob Lowe, who turned it down to do a show called (opens in new tab)Dr. Vegas (opens in new tab).
2006: The Creator
The show's mastermind, Shonda Rhimes (center), poses with actors Richard Roundtree and Diahann Carroll. Rhimes has gone on to be the showrunner for many successful series on ABC, including Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.
2006: Welcome, McSteamy
In the second season, the show welcomed Eric Dane who played Dr. Mark Sloane (a.k.a. McSteamy). Dane started out as a guest star on the series and ended up becoming a central character up until his character's death in season nine.
2006: International Audiences
Chandra Wilson meets with executives from the show's Japanese broadcaster, Wowow, on the set of Grey's Anatomy in 2006.
2008: Making It Rain
Sandra Oh carries an umbrella while on location in Los Angeles with costar Kevin McKidd. The crew used a rain machine to replicate the weather needed for the scene.
2007: Extreme Scenes
Actress Katherine Heigl gets advice from Grey's Anatomy's technical director as they prepare to film a car accident scene.
2009: The Best Actors for the Job
Shonda Rhimes told O, The Oprah Magazine (opens in new tab) that she didn't intentionally cast any of the characters for a specific race, she just went with the best actors for the role: "We read every color actor for every single part. My goal was simply to cast the best actors."
2009: Goofing Around
Ellen Pompeo shared an Instagram (opens in new tab) of her and costar Sandra Oh joking around in the makeup trailer.
2009: The 100th Episode
Shonda Rhimes poses on the set of Grey's Anatomy with a few of the show's producers as they celebrate the filming of their 100th episode—a huge milestone.
2009: A Big Celebration
Patrick Dempsey and Chandra Wilson goof around with the celebratory cake during the celebration of the 100th episode.
2009: Filming the Episode
After eating cake, the cast, producers, and crew get to work creating the milestone 100th episode for audiences.
2010: A Dramatic Exit
Katherine Heigl's character, Izzie, was beloved by fans—however, the actress left the show in the midst of drama. After refusing an Emmy nomination (opens in new tab) because she didn't think the show's writing warranted her one, Heigl's character was written out of the show at the end of season six.
2010: Off-Duty McSteamy
While on a break from shooting, Eric Dane checks his phone as he walks around set in bloody scrubs after filming a scene on location in Los Angeles.
2011: A Musical Episode
Actor Scott Foley records a song for a Grey's Anatomy episode that doubled as a musical event in season seven.
2011: Reviewing the Script
Sara Ramirez goes over her script one more time before shooting a scene in which her character is in the operating room sans scrubs.
2011: The Green Screen
Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw sit in a car in front of a green screen that's used to simulate that they're driving on a road. TV magic!
2012: On Location
Ellen Pompeo talks to a member of the crew as she shoots a scene on location in Los Angeles. Instead of wearing her usual scrubs, she wore a camel colored suit and heels.
2012: New Cast Members
In 2012, Camilla Luddington, Gaius Charles, and Tina Majorino were the new faces around Seattle Grace—and many have come and gone since. Today, Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens Jr. are the only three original cast members still on the show.
2013: Table Reads
Shonda Rhimes shared an Instagram (opens in new tab) of Justin Chambers (left), Sandra Oh (center), and Tessa Ferrer (right) during a table read with the cast.
2013: Chandra Wilson Directs
Chandra Wilson tried her hand at directing for the episode "Transplant Wasteland." Here, the actress is seen giving notes to Patrick Dempsey, while another actor gets their makeup touched up off-screen.
2013: Running Lines
Actor Jesse Williams runs lines with Sara Ramirez, Sandra Oh, and Jessica Capshaw before shooting in Seattle Grace's conference room.
2013: Jogging on Set
This behind-the-scenes photo reveals the film crew driving an ATV in front of actor Kevin McKidd to capture his character, Owen Hunt, on a run.
Similarly, Patrick Dempsey is photographed inside his character's car as a film crew rides alongside him.
2013: Practice Makes Perfect
Chandra Wilson has a conversation with actors Kevin McKidd and Jesse Williams as they rehearse a scene from an episode she directed in season nine.
2013: The Crew at Work
A member of the crew checks to make sure the lighting is just right as they get ready to shoot a scene in a hospital room.
2013: Ready, Set, Action
A shot from behind the camera lens shows Chandra Wilson shooting an emotional scene for the premiere of season 10, which 9.27 million viewers (opens in new tab) tuned in for. No big deal.
2013: Derek and Meredith Forever
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo shoot together as their characters prepare for the birth of their baby. The popular TV couple garnered a huge following and even prompted a real-life wedding registry (opens in new tab) that was made in their name at the time of their TV wedding.
2016: Getting Direction
Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan and actress Camilla Luddington discuss a scene for season 13. Sullivan is also known for directing shows like The West Wing and Modern Family. He directed three episodes of Grey's Anatomy.
2016: Kids on Set
Director Debbie Allen takes a moment on set to discuss a scene with the show's youngest actors, Brody Goodstadt and Aniela Gumbs.
2017: Another Huge Milestone
Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and the rest of the cast of Grey's Anatomy cast pose with a giant "300" sign in celebration of their 300th episode.
2017: Ellen Pompeo Directs
The star of the show, Ellen Pompeo, took a seat in the director's chair during season 13. Here, the actress discusses a scene taking place in her character's kitchen with other members of the crew.
2018: Taking a Break
Camilla Luddington shared an Instagram (opens in new tab) of herself, Justin Chambers, Giacomo Gianniotti, and members of the crew talking between takes on set in Jo and Alex's loft.
2018: Kevin McKidd Directs
In 2018, Kevin McKidd also took a turn directing—but this wasn't his first time. The Scottish actor, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt, has directed over 26 episodes of the television show beginning all the way back in 2011 (opens in new tab).
2018: Stars on Set
Debbie Allen shared an Instagram (opens in new tab) of the show's lead, Ellen Pompeo, with her real-life husband, Chris Ivery, while he was visiting the actress on set.
2019: Jesse Williams Directs
Actor Jesse Williams directed his first episode of the show in 2018 and returned the following year to try his hand at it again. In total, Williams has three episodes of Grey's Anatomy under his belt as a director.
2019: The Men on Set
Ellen Pompeo shared an Instagram (opens in new tab) of her and some of the show's leading men last year with the caption: "I'm a Pretty lucky girl...these guys hold me up and when necessary hold me down!"
2020: No End in Sight
Ellen Pompeo, who signed a contract with ABC through 2021, doesn't need to worry about whether or not her character will get killed off. According to Shonda Rhimes (opens in new tab), she will continue writing the script as long as Pompeo is willing to do it. Talk about job security.
2020: A Historic Run
Already in its 17th season and renewed for one more, Grey's Anatomy has crossed many milestones thanks to its long-standing spot on primetime television and huge fan base.
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