“I Knew I Was F—ed”: The Best Parts Of Ellen Pompeo’s Delightfully Candid New Interview

In a wide-ranging “Hollywood Reporter” cover story, the long-time “Grey’s Anatomy” star talks equal pay, Harvey Weinstein, and much more. Here are the bits you shouldn’t miss.

“I Knew I Was F—ed”: The Best Parts Of Ellen Pompeo’s Delightfully Candid New Interview
[Photo: Flickr user Disney | ABC Television Group]

Grey’s Anatomy may not be the cultural juggernaut it once was, but the show’s star, Ellen Pompeo, is more powerful than ever.


Pompeo recently signed a deal worth over $20 million a year and became the highest-paid woman on dramatic television. She negotiated a producing fee along with backend payments on the forthcoming Grey’s spinoff, in addition to pilot commitments and office space for her production company, Calamity Jane. Although she already has a legal drama in contention at ABC and an anthology series in the works at Amazon, her main role is occupying the center of Grey’s Anatomy, where, in addition to playing Dr. Meredith Grey, she is a producer and occasional director. Currently in its 14th season, the show will continue on, in the words of creator Shonda Rhimes, “as long as Ellen wants to do it.”

In a refreshingly bullshit-free interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Pompeo discusses a range of topics, including her role in the anti-sexual harassment campaign, Time’s Up, butting heads with Patrick Dempsey, how and why she finally negotiated her current salary, and the time she met Harvey Weinstein. Have a look below for our favorite moments, but really, the whole interview is essential reading.

Initial Reaction to the Prospect of Being On Grey’s Anatomy

“I knew I was fucked . . . I was like, ‘I’m not going to be stuck on a medical show for five years.'”

How Success for Women Is Viewed Relatively

“I’m not necessarily perceived as successful, but a 24-year-old actress with a few big movies is, even though she’s probably being paid shit—certainly less than her male co-star and probably with no backend. And they’re going to pimp her out until she’s 33 or 34 and then she’s out like yesterday’s trash, and then what does she have to take care of herself? These poor girls have no real money, and the studio is making a fortune and parading them like ponies on a red carpet. I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin’ Prius today.”


Negotiating Around McDreamy

“For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise. 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. 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.”

Frustration Around Needing a Male Lead

“The ink wasn’t even dry on [Dempsey’s] exit papers before they rushed in a new guy. 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?’ And they’re sending pictures. I was like, ‘Are you people fucking 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.”

Negotiating for a Better Life, Not Just More Money

“What I said to Shonda is the truth: ‘I don’t get to do anything else, and that’s frustrating for me creatively. I make 24 episodes of TV a year, and as part of this deal, I cannot appear anywhere else. And directing is cool but, to be honest, it just takes me away from my kids.’ Then I said, ‘So, it’s got to be a ton of money. And it has to help me with my producing because producing is something I really enjoy. That’s my creativity now.’ Acting, to me, is boring. An actor is the least powerful person on set, so I don’t care about chasing roles. Plus, at my age, it’s pretty unrealistic. Not that I can’t do a cool cable thing, but I’m not going to have this whole second life as a movie star. I’m not fuckin’ Julia Roberts.”


Her Harvey Weinstein Encounter

“My agent once sent me to see Harvey, too. I went right up to his room at the Peninsula, which I would never normally do, but Harvey was a New York guy, so it made sense. Plus, it was in the middle of the day, and he had an assistant there. He didn’t try anything on me. Had he, I’m a little rough around the edges and I grew up around some very tough people, so I probably would have picked up a vase and cracked him over the fucking head . . . And I’ve had conversations with my agent 17 years later where I said, ‘You sent me into that room knowing  . . .’ They claim they didn’t know.”

What Jay-Z Can Teach Actors About Equity

“I don’t know if you listened to Jay-Z’s latest album, but in one song he talks about how all the white guys own the record labels and they say to these artists, ‘Oh, here’s a $3 million advance,’ while they’re making billions. The artists are chasing Grammys and Lamborghinis, so they think, ‘Oh yeah, I’m rich.’ Meanwhile, Sony just made fucking $500 million, and they gave you $3 million and you think you’re doing amazing. With Tidal, Jay-Z’s empowered artists by giving them a piece, and it makes them more invested. I love it. And I think, like the music business, we need to get to a place where actors have more ownership over what they do.”

Why Studios Need To Follow Shondaland’s Lead And Hire More Women

“My 8-year-old daughter gets to come here and see fierce females in charge. She loves to sit in the director’s chair with the headphones on yelling ‘action!’ and ‘cut!’ She’s growing up in an environment where she’s completely comfortable with power.”