Ellen Pompeo Denies That Her Grey's Anatomy Pay Raise Spurred Costars' Exit: 'I'm Not Involved'
The Grey’s Anatomy star appeared on Ellen DeGeneres‘ talk show Thursday to discuss her recent Hollywood Reporter cover story, which chronicles her rise to becoming the highest-earning actress on a TV drama. (She makes $575,000 per episode and films 24 a year.)
“I think there are certain moments where it’s important to be really truthful about our pain and about our struggles,” the actress told DeGeneres, 60. “I recently read the article about the 20-year anniversary of your show, and the whole story about you coming out and how painful that was. And look at what came out of that — I could cry just recalling that article. It was a monumental moment for the gay and lesbian community, for you and your life, and like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, look at you now.”
“Sometimes, you have to go through painful things to just be an example, if you have a platform — we have a platform,” she continued. “And the women who have approached me from all walks of life since this article came out — I’ve really been so shocked and so moved about how many women just run up to me and want to share their stories.”
“I think as women, sometimes we’re afraid to ask, we’re afraid to be vocal, we’re taught not to be,” she added. “They like us quiet, as we’ve seen from this administration. So I think it’s really important to encourage each other — and encourage other women — to stand up and be strong and know that we will be okay and we have each other’s backs.”
Pompeo, 48, also refuted the rumors that her costars Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew are exiting the show because her own pay raise meant they couldn’t afford for them to come back.
“It’s absolutely not true,” she said. “I mean, I’m not involved in these kind of decisions. However, there are a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons. One of them is that writers have a really hard time creatively, thinking up new stories for all these characters. It’s always sad when we lose people, for whatever reason.”
“I think that it’s important for us to not pit women against each other and to really dispel the notion that women are always victims,” she added. “We’re not enemies, we do lift each other up and support each other, and we’re not victims. We’re very strong, and we’re capable of many, many things.”
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In her THR interview, Pompeo said it was series creator Shonda Rhimes who “empowered” her to know her worth and assert herself.
“Maybe it’s my Irish Catholic upbringing, but you never want to [be perceived as] too greedy,” she said. “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?” 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.’ ”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC, The Ellen DeGeneres Show airs weekdays (check local listings).