…and it wasn’t an easy road to the top. Ellen Pompeo, who plays Grey’s Anatomy’s titular character Meredith Grey, signed a deal in late 2017 that makes her dramatic television’s highest-earning actress – no small feat, considering everything she went through since she signed on as the lead in the medical series which premiered in 2005.
In a no-holds-barred interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she candidly speaks about her experiences, pay struggles, and the exit of McDreamy.
Here are a few excerpts:
“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.
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?” “What do you think of this guy?” And they’re sending pictures. I was like, “Are you people ******* nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?”
Things have changed, though. In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me. And that took her a while to get to, too. It was part of her evolution. It’s also why our relationship is so special. I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented.”
Her new deal – covering the current season and the next two after – gives her a pay of $575,000 per episode, a seven-figure signing bonus, and two full back-end equity points on the series; plus a producing fee plus backend on this spring’s Grey’s spinoff, and put pilot commitments and office space for her Calamity Jane production company.