Ellen Pompeo Says She and Denzel Washington Clashed When He Directed 'Grey's' : 'This Is My Show'

Denzel Washington directed an episode of Grey’s Anatomy back in 2015

Ellen Pompeo is recalling her "amazing" — albeit dramatic — experience being directed by Denzel Washington on Grey's Anatomy.

Washington, 66, directed the season 12 episode "The Sound of Silence," back in 2015, which Pompeo, 51, remembered during an episode of her new podcast, Tell Me with Ellen Pompeo, that featured former costar Patrick Dempsey as a guest.

She began by praising Washington as "crazy charismatic" and said that Debbie Allen, who stars, executive produces and directs on the medical drama, recruited the Fences actor as a way to keep Pompeo interested after Dempsey's exit.

"Debbie Allen was like, 'What can I do to keep Ellen interested? What can I do to keep Ellen here?' because after you left, I was like, 'Oh, why do I have to stay here? I've got to go now. Everyone's gone. Sandra's [Oh] gone, Patrick's gone. I've got to go too,'" she told Dempsey, 55. "And Debbie was like, 'No, no, no. You've got to stick around. I'm going to bring in a surprise for you,' and she would never tell me who it was. But she knew I was a huge fan."

ellen pompen and Denzel Washington
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ; Michael Kovac/Getty

Before launching into the details of how filming the episode went down, Pompeo teased, "He went nuts on me — this is a good Denzel story."

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She went on to explain that the episode Washington directed featured an emotional scene between her character, Meredith Grey, and a patient who had unintentionally injured her and broken her jaw. The episode was based on "a true story of an epileptic patient who goes into a seizure and beat up a nurse," Pompeo said.

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She said Meredith "was really hesitant and reluctant" to hear the patient's apology, but went anyway and shared that she decided to improvise her character's response to the apology itself.

"He apologized to me but he was doing it really softly, he made this choice to speak very softly. And [Meredith] was pissed that [she] had to sit there and listen to this apology, and he wasn't looking at [her] in the eye," she said. "Again, we love actors who make choices, right? And I yelled at him, and I was like, 'Look at me when you apologize. Look at me.' And that wasn't in the dialogue, and Denzel went ham on my a--."

Grey's Anatomy
Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy. Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Pompeo continued, "He was like, 'I'm the director. Don't you tell him what to do.' And I was like, 'Listen, motherf-----, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?' Like, 'You barely know where the bathroom is.' And I have the utmost respect for him as an actor, as a director, as everything, but like, yo, we went at it one day."

Having noted earlier that Washington "did the show because his wife is a big fan," Pompeo said she ended up visiting the set at one point.

"I was like, 'Yeah, he yelled at me today. Yeah, he let me have it today, and I'm not okay with him, and I'm not looking at him, and I'm not talking to him,'" she recalled telling Washington's wife. "So we didn't get through it without a fight, but you know, that's actors for you — passionate and fiery — and that's where you get the magic, and that's where you get the good stuff."

"So it was an amazing experience, it really was," she concluded.

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