Ellen Pompeo gets extremely honest in a new interview, detailing her experience on Grey’s Anatomy, her battle for more money and what it was like when Patrick Dempsey left the show in 2015. The actress, who has played Meredith Grey on the long-running ABC series since its debut, revealed that when Dempsey left the show, it was a “defining moment” for her career.
“They could always use him as leverage against me — ‘We don’t need you; we have Patrick’ — which they did for years. I don’t know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the number one. I’m sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.’”
Pompeo, 48, also explained that after Dempsey departed, a new male was almost immediately cast — Martin Henderson. “I was on vacation in Sicily, decompressing — it was a long working relationship and it was a tumultuous end and I needed a moment to just chill with some rosé — and they’re calling me, going, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ ‘What do you think of this guy?’ And they’re sending pictures,” she remembered. “I was like, ‘Are you people f–king nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?’”
“I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there,” she said.
Now, Pompeo calls the shots on the show, along with creator Shonda Rhimes. The actress, 48, just signed on for a 15th and 16th season of the medical drama. She will earn $575,000 an episode, earning more than $20 million a year, along with a seven-figure signing bonus and two backend equities points (estimated to bring in another $6 million to $7 million). She will also get a producing fee and backend on the untitled Grey’s Anatomy spinoff.
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.