'Grey's Anatomy' star reveals the secret of how she negotiated massive salary of $575,000 per episode
Grey's Anatomy is one of the biggest shows of all time. The clearest indicator of its success is the fact that everyone, whether they've seen an episode or not, knows the name. Having 14 seasons and 311 episodes under its belt isn't a bad sign either.
Seeing its gargantuan success, actress Ellen Pompeo decided to ask for a much bigger paycheque to match the growth of the series. After all, she is playing Dr. Meredith Grey (as Wikipedia informs me), so the whole enterprise is dependent on her to keep running. Just consider that in comparison to any other medical series: it would have been pretty weird if House had kept going after Hugh Laurie's grouchy doctor left it behind.
The news of this pay rise comes after it recently became known that she has become the highest-earning actress on a TV drama, making an incredible $575,000 for every episode of the currently-running season. In a recent interview with People magazine, she explained exactly how she got such a good deal, targeting her answers specifically at the women reading:
"Ladies, when asking for a raise, always start with the positive. A compliment is nice. 'I deserve X because of Y and Z.' You know, you gotta have reasons - you gotta have stuff to back up what you’re asking for and why. Numbers always help.
"The only time you ever really have power in asking for anything is if you’re willing to walk away. When you’re asking for a raise, you’ve got to be willing to walk out the door if you don’t get what you want. If you’re not willing to walk out the door, then you’re going to get f****d.
"Don’t be worried about what people think. Unless, of course, what you’re going to say is an insult. Then be worried about what they think."
It's a little hard to swallow this advice at first, knowing that the amount Pompeo was making before this pay rise is far more than most of us will ever see. Being "willing to walk away" is a little more difficult when you're dependent on your salary to pay your rent, for example. But that doesn't mean there aren't some important things to take away from her advice.
It can be quite difficult to think of the big picture and realize how much you are actually worth to your employers, but you may find that you are in a better position to negotiate than you initially thought. It may not get you into Pompeo's ridiculous numbers, but it could be more than you'd expect.
In January Pompeo was heralded as "TV's $20 million woman" in her Hollywood Reporter cover interview. In the article, she credited the creator of Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes, as the one who empowered her to know her own worth in the first place. She also addressed why exactly she hadn't asked for a raise earlier:
"Maybe it’s my Irish Catholic upbringing, but you never want to [be perceived as] too greedy. Or maybe it’s just that as women, that’s our problem; a guy wouldn’t have any problem asking for $600,000 an episode. And as women, we’re like, ‘Oh, can I ask for that? Is that OK?’ I’d call Shonda and say, ‘Am I being greedy?’"
She also spoke about equal pay last month on The Ellen Show, where the interviewer notes that she was initially making less than her male co-star on Grey's Anatomy, despite the fact that she's the titular character. You can watch her eloquent response to these questions in the video below:
"But CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and Grey’s has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that’s generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, ‘OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this.'"
That's a fair enough reason if you ask me. However, I can't even imagine making $575,000 for just one episode's worth of work. Even if it took an entire year to film that hour of TV that would be ridiculous.