Ellen Pompeo wasn’t here for Patrick Dempsey making double her salary – especially when she was the star of the show in the first place. The actress spoke up about the pay equity issue, and how she almost left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in a new interview.
Ellen Pompeo, 49, has wowed audiences for 15 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy by playing the titular role, Meredith Grey. What would it be without her? Thankfully we don’t have to imagine that possibility at the moment, but the star recently revealed in a Variety interview that she has almost left the show before. “There were many moments,” Ellen said about considering a departure from the show. While Ellen is the highest-paid actress on television now, her co-star and romantic scene partner for over a decade, Patrick Dempsey, 53, made “almost double” what Ellen made “in the beginning” of the long-running medical drama. “He had a television quote,” Ellen explained. “I had never done TV.” She said that she was told Patrick had done 13 television pilots, which seemed like an excuse for his twice-as-high rate. “Well none of them have gone,” Ellen fired back. “I didn’t even realize until we were renegotiating Season 3. No one was offering that up.”
“It’s funny: I never wanted ‘off the bus’ in the year that I could get off,” Ellen said about leaving. “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.” Ellen married Chris Ivery, 52, in 2007. The couple has three kids: Stella Luna, 9, Sienna May, 4, and Eli Christopher, 2.
“At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money? I need to take care of my kids,” Ellen continued. “But after Season 10 [when co-star Sandra Oh, 47, left the show], we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. 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. [Show creator] Shonda Rhimes  and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That’s what’s kept me. Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission.”
The show was recently renewed for two more seasons, and it has previously been said that Grey’s Anatomy wouldn’t continue without Ellen onboard. We’re glad Ellen is getting what she deserves and hope Meredith’s story ends – whenever it does – in a satisfying way for the writers, cast, and fans.