After the show bid farewell to Justin Chambers’ character Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, March 5, Chris Carmack – who plays as Dr. Atticus Lincoln on the long-running ABC medical drama series – shared his thoughts on how Chambers’ exit affected the cast, how Alex’s storyline played out, and what’s next for Alex’s wife Dr. Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington), and the personal tie he has to the Chambers’ final episode.
“[Chambers’] contributions to the story over the years was one that was difficult to say goodbye to,” Carmack told PEOPLE. “The Grey’s community is definitely a family and supportive of one another. There was an emotional fallout amongst cast and crew when we found out.”
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After he watched Chambers’ farewell episode, the actor said he was “drenched in tears.”
“It was really kind of beautiful to look back on Alex Karev and his 16 years of life on the show,” he said. “Watching him and Meredith and their first go around, and him and Izzie. How incredible to see a flashback of 16 years ago that was actually shot as part of the television show. It was very tangible and emotional. It wasn’t just a flashback from that episode. Those were scenes that fans had invested in so long ago. To see them all back to back was very powerful.”
On last week’s episode, fans – and Karev’s wife and close friends – received the answers they were seeking as to why the pediatrician had left: He moved to Kansas to be with his ex-wife, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), and their 5-year-old twins.
“Jo is a tough character,” Carmack described Luddington’s character. “She has come so far and has grown so much. She’s a survivor she can stand on her own. I think she’s going to rise from the smoke of all this. I don’t think you can just crush this one-off, it’s tough. She’s a strong cookie. She has a lot to give to the world and the medical community and to the patients at Grey Sloan. I think, as a viewer, she’s going to rise and be okay.”
In January, Chamber’s announced he was not returning to Grey’s Anatomy after starring on the show for 16 years.
“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” he said in a statement. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”
Chambers added, “As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.