On the Grey's Anatomy Season 9 premiere (Season 9, Episode 1: "Going, Going, Gone"), viewers had to kiss one of their favorite characters goodbye... again. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) died, and we wept along with BFF Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and the mother of his daughter, Callie (Sara Ramirez).

But why did he have to go? Especially right after another major character death — Lexie’s (Chyler Leigh) — in the Season 8 finale?

Sources “close to Grey’s and ABC” tell E! that “the network requested budget tightening for the series going into the current season, and [showrunner Shonda] Rhimes was forced to cut down on the cast.”

The source goes on to say that, while Chyler “wanted to leave Grey’s,” as both Chyler and Shonda have said in interviews, and Kim Raver (Teddy Altman) was looking for more screen time so the decision for Teddy to leave was “mutual,” Eric “did not ask to leave the show.”

That seems to suggest that Shonda was forced to pick one big-budget actor/actress in her cast, and let them go whether they wanted to leave or not. Still, a source says that Shonda had “very legitimate reasons” to let Eric go. Plus, in interviews after the news of his departure broke, Eric seemed perfectly content about the decision.

We can’t help but wonder, however, if fans would have preferred another character to take the plunge. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Catch the next new episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday, October 4 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Source: E!

Molly Friedman is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @MollyFriedman.

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