Several models try to make the leap from modeling to acting but not many have been quite as successful as Justin Chambers. He made his acting debut in 1995, and within a decade, became a part of one of the longest-running shows on primetime television, Grey’s Anatomy.
For fifteen years, Justin played Dr. Alex Karev on the medical drama TV series. He was one of the last members of the original cast until he abruptly announced his exit from the show in January 2020. A lot of speculation has gone into the circumstances surrounding his departure, which has left thousands of fans angry. We finally know the truth about why the former model left the show that transformed his acting career.
Grey’s Anatomy Made Justin Chambers a Household Name
Primetime television is not renowned for having shows that lasts for up to a decade. The Shonda Rhimes-produced medical drama series, Grey’s Anatomy, is one of the few exceptions and one that gave Justin Chambers global recognition. After ten years as a professional actor, bouncing from one minor role to another, he finally found the stability he craved on the show. He got cast as Alex Karev, one of the five founding interns of the show.
Although it is difficult to imagine the show without him now, he almost missed out on being a part of TV history. The pilot for the show had been shot before the producers realized that something was missing and sent out an audition notice for his role as Dr. Alex Karev. His part did not exist at the time of filming the pilot, and as a result, he had to be digitally added into the already filmed episode.
His character’s relationship with other interns, Meredith Grey, Izzie Stevens, Cristina Yang, and George O’Malley, formed the focal point of the show at the start. Although the other interns initially disliked Justin’s character, he became a fan favorite thanks to his skill in pediatrics. Throughout the story, his colleagues came to respect his abilities as a pediatric surgeon.
Romantically, his character was involved in several relationships. His performance cemented his place among one of television’s most lovable bad boy characters. After his inevitable reform, Justin’s character went through two marriages. He was initially married to Izzie Stevens, played by Katherine Heigl, and later to Jo Wilson, played by Camilla Luddington.
As his character developed throughout the show, and Grey’s Anatomy became a behemoth of ABC’s late-night television, Justin Chambers grew in popularity. He remained a fan favorite throughout his 15 years on the show and all 16 seasons. His character was so popular that he made additional appearances in spin-offs of the show; Grey’s Anatomy B-Team and Private Practice.
He Received More than Ten Award Nominations for His Work on the Show
Along with other primary cast members of the show, Justin Chambers received plenty of award recognition. He received ensemble award nominations from Gold Derby TV Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Satellite Awards, winning a couple. He also had nominations for Favorite Dramatic TV actor from People’s Choice Award, winning one in 2017, as well as a Prism Award for Male Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline in 2014.
A Desire to Diversify His Filmography and Career Path Caused Him to Leave the Show
A stable paycheck, international recognition from millions of fans of Grey’s Anatomy, and a couple of award recognitions made it seem like Justin Chambers was enjoying one of the coolest gigs in Hollywood. Sadly, at least for fans of the show, he announced his exit in a statement to Deadline on January 10, 2020. According to the statement, Justin was leaving the show to diversify his acting roles and career choices. With over 350 episode appearances, Grey’s Anatomy is the only significant work he had done in 15 years except for minor roles and one-off guest appearances in other shows.
News of his exit was met with anger and frustration from fans who derided his abrupt departure from the show. The negative reaction escalated after the show wrapped up his arc off-screen. In his farewell episode titled Leave a Light On which aired on June 17, 2020, his character sent four letters to his wife Jo Wilson, Meredith Grey, Bailey, and Webber. In them, he explained he had left the marriage and the hospital for his first wife, Izzie Stevens. His final physical appearance, however, came much earlier in the fall finale on November 14, 2019.
Before the episode, viewers and fans were of the impression he had left to visit his aging mother, a long-running thread of his arc since 2005. But that changed following his exit, forcing the off-screen end to his time on the show. Fans on social media expressed shock and disbelief at the ending, with many threatening to stop watching the show entirely.
Justin Chambers Wanted to Become a Dentist But Ended up Modelling Before Starting His Acting Career
Growing up in Springfield, Ohio, Justin Chambers dreamed of becoming a dentist. That dream, however, changed as he grew older and graduated from Southeastern High School. The sudden drift from his passion for dentistry to modeling occurred during a trip to Paris when he met a modeling scout on the Paris Metro who convinced him to take up a career in modeling.
Justin decided to take the bold step hoping for the best outcome and went ahead to be quite successful even though it was short-lived.
— JustinChambersOnline (@JChambersOnline) August 15, 2019
His modeling career had him traveling to different continents and working for premium fashion brands like Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, and Dolce & Gabbana. He worked throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States and was particularly a star for Calvin Klein’s fragrance range.
The fashion world earned Justin Chambers a lot of money but he saw more longevity in the acting business. So in the early 90s, he decided to swing the other way, spending four years acquiring skills from two notable studios; HB Studio and Ron Stetson Studios. After completing his education, he made his onscreen debut as an actor in the Dave Matthews Band music video for Ants Marching. He would go on to make his TV debut in 1995 in the NBC soap opera, Another World, sparking a TV and film career that has spanned over 25 years.
The Actor Has Appeared More Than 26 Films and TV Shows
Between 1996 and 2005 when he started appearing on Grey’s Anatomy, Justin Chambers had 17 credits to his name across film and TV. After Another World, he made a guest star appearance on Fox’s New York Undercover in 1996 before making his feature-length film debut in the same year. He starred as George in the TV movie, Harvest of Fire.
Over the next nine years, Justin appeared as a recurring character in Four Corners, where he played Caleb Haskell. He also appeared in other TV movies like Rose Hill, Hysterical Blindness, and The Secret Service. His first big-screen appearance came in 1999 when he starred as Trey Tobelseted in Liberty Heights. He followed it up with a supporting role as Massimo in the 2001 rom-com, The Wedding Planner.
In between his 15-year run on Grey’s Anatomy, Justin Chambers took advantage of breaks from filming to star in films and TV movies. After starring in The Zodiac and Southern Belles in the same year his role in the medical drama series began, he starred in Broken City and Lakeview Terrace. He also pivoted to voice acting, voicing the character of Barry Allen aka The Flash in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox in 2013. Other appearances include Swedish Dicks (TV show), and the short films; Someone You Know and The Happiest Man Alive.
Since he announced his exit from Grey’s Anatomy, the model turned actor has yet to sign on to his next acting role. However, it seems Justin has been producing documentaries according to the answer he gave when asked about his next move. He has also been spending a lot of time with his family, including a wife he has been married to for over two decades.
Modelling Gave Justin Chambers a Career and a Wife
It may not have been in his original plan, but modeling turned out to be the career on which other successes of Justin’s life is built. Not only did it pave his way to Hollywood, but it also gave him his wife, Keisha Chambers, whom he has been married to since 1993.
Keisha Chambers is a former model agency booker. She had always aspired to be a model but her dreams never quite took off. So instead, she took up a career with a modeling company where she tutored models. The couple met in their respective line of work while Justin was working on an ad campaign for Calvin Klein. During the gig, the two wound up in the same room together and it turned out to be the start of their multi-decade relationship – a level of stability and longevity that his Grey’s Anatomy character famously abhorred.
After their marriage, Keisha resigned from the Glamour agency to pay more attention to their home. One year after their wedding in December 1994, they welcomed their first child, Isabella Chambers. After Isabella came twin girls; Maya and Kaila Chambers, in June 1997. Their fourth child, Eva Chambers, was born in March 1997 while their fifth, Jackson Chambers, was born in January 2002.
He and His Wife Live in a Nightclub
Not literally, of course. But aside from their five children, Justin and Keisha Chambers also have two rescue dogs and own a beagle named D’Artagnan. One of their rescues is a pitbull named Zook. With so many members in the Chambers family, it is no wonder that the actor has described his house as living in a nightclub.
Aside from the chaos and music that comes from having a diverse group in the home, his daughter Eva is in an up-and-coming band. She plays bass for the band, Pinky Pinky, which has been described as California’s three-piece. The band has released two EPs, Pinky Pinky and Hot Tears, as well as a debut album titled Turkey Dinner. They released the latter in June 2019.
As for where they actually live, the family reportedly has a home in Los Angeles. However, they bought an apartment in East Village, New York, worth $1.54 million in October 2016. The house has two-bedrooms and one bathroom spread across 1,237 square feet. Believed to be too small for the actor’s family, the house is considered the couple’s pied-a-terre, used when they need a break from their lives in Los Angeles.
Justin Chambers Family is as Big as The One He Grew Up In
Although Justin claims his large family was not intentional, it appears it is a trait that runs in the Chambers’ lineage, or at least his parental family. He grew up in a family of seven, with two older sisters; Mia and Susan, an older brother John Jr., and a twin brother Jason.
His parents, who named him Justin Willman Chambers, are Pamela Sue Chambers and John William Eugene Chambers II. Both of them were active members of law enforcement. They served as Deputy Sheriffs in Springfield, Ohio, where they raised the actor. Through his parents, Justin has English, Irish, and German ethnic roots.
His European heritage is not the only thing he got from his parents. He also has a biological sleep deprivation disorder. The condition once caused him to check into the Resnick Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital at UCLA in January 2008. He had only managed two hours of sleep each week prior to checking in for exhaustion. To manage the condition, the actor follows a healthy lifestyle and practices hot yoga.