Eric Dane has decided to leave the cast of Grey's Anatomy, TVGuide.com has confirmed.
As TVLine.com first reported, Dane, who portrays Dr. Mark Sloan on the ABC medical series, will exit Grey's during the upcoming ninth season after wrapping up his story line over several episodes.
Dane's Mark Sloan was one of the Stranded Six doctors who were in a horrific plane crash in the Season 8 finale. Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), Mark's on-again, off-again love interest, died in the finale, while Sloan nearly met his maker before Cristina (Sandra Oh) came to his rescue.
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"I am extremely grateful to everyone at Grey's, ABC and Shondland for the experience and memories I have had over the course of this run," Dane told the site, which noted that the actor is leaving to pursue other opportunities. "It has been wonderful to work alongside and learn from a creative force such as Shonda Rhimes."
For her part, Rhimes called Sloan "one of the most beloved characters on Grey's Anatomy." "[Eric] did not come to this decision lightly, but after much consideration and conversations, he and I have decided that this is the right time for his storyline to end."
The departures of Dane, Leigh and Kim Raver as series regulars have opened up the possibility of fresh blood at Seattle Grace this fall. Already, Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights) and Camilla Luddington (True Blood) have signed on to the show in recurring roles.
Dane made his debut on Grey's at the end of Season 2, joining the show as a series regular in Season 3. Before being Lexie's soul mate, McSteamy was the best friend of Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) until he slept with McDreamy's wife Addison (Kate Walsh), which caused drama when he arrived at Seattle Grace.
Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9/8c on ABC.