Ellen Pompeo wanted to quit 'Grey's Anatomy' many times because of a toxic work environment
Thanks to a lucrative new deal Ellen Pompeo struck last year with ABC, she will earn more than $20 million a year. That comes down to about $575,000 per episode of Grey's Anatomy - not a bad wage, eh? The medical drama recently wrapped up its 15th season, and it's remarkable for a prime time series to retain its lead actress for so long.
Making buttloads of money to play doctor seems like a dream job, but in a new interview Pompeo revealed that she considered leaving the show many times. "It's funny: I never wanted off the bus in the year that I could get off," she told Variety. "The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment. But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family."
Pompeo and husband Chris Ivery have three children, 9-year-old Stella, 4-year-old Sienna and 2-year-old Eli. "At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money?" she explained, "I need to take care of my kids." If you have a family, you can probably relate, even if you don't make $20 million a year.
Fortunately, the toxic environment changed in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
"After Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera," Pompeo told the outlet. "It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years. My mission became, this can't be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That's what’s kept me."
For the first eleven seasons, Patrick Dempsey played Dr. Derek Shepard, whom fans nicknamed 'McDreamy,' a key element of the show. After his character was killed off, ""the network believed the show could not go on without the male lead," according to Pompeo.
"So I had a mission to prove that it could," she recalled. "I was on a double mission. He was being paid almost double what I was in the beginning. He had a television quote. I had never done TV. 'He's done 13 pilots.' Well, none of them have gone. I didn’t even realize until we were renegotiating Season 3. No one was offering that up."
After signing that eye-popping new deal in January 2018, Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter that Dempsey's exit was a "defining moment" for her career. "There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that," she said. "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."
Well, at least now Pompeo is free from that toxic work environment and can sleep soundly on a Scrooge McDuck pile of money!