Ellen Pompeo is now television’s highest-paid actress in a prime-time drama, but the road to such riches was not easy, as she recounted in a piece published in the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. The Grey’s Anatomy star recently renewed her contract for the show through its potential 15th and 16th seasons with a deal that will pay her $575,000 per episode as well as a substantial bonus, points on the back end, and a producer credit. Assuming the show is picked up—which it likely will be—that would amount to more than $20 million per year for Pompeo.
Pompeo gave a blunt account of what it was like to negotiate the new deal to THR’s Lacey Rose. This included plenty of praise for Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes for giving her advice: “In finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, [Rhimes] has empowered me,” Pompeo said.
Less flattering was Pompeo’s description of how the studio treated her before her co-star Patrick Dempsey departed the series in 2015:
There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but [Patrick] 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.”
Even after Dempsey’s departure, Pompeo felt slighted: “So, what does it look like when he leaves the show? First, it looks like a ratings spike, and I had a nice chuckle about that. But the truth is, the ink wasn’t even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy. … I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there.”
Pompeo used the recent #MeToo movement as an example of why she’s pursued a substantial paycheck. “I’ve chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies,” she told Rose. “It’s not for everyone. You have to be more interested in business than you are in acting.”
You can read the full piece over at THR—and you definitely should.
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