‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Eyes Two More Years With Ellen Pompeo as TV’s Highest-Paid Actress
Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes’ new Netflix deal left the future of ABC’s flagship medical drama in question, and it seems fans have Ellen Pompeo to thank for its return. A new tell-all interview details Pompeo’s quest to balance the pay scales and earn a producer’s credit; likely guaranteeing Grey’s Anatomy a fifteenth and sixteenth season.
The Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy tell-all interview with the title star, who last year negotiated an executive producer deal that places her as the highest-paid TV drama actress. In addition to becoming a Grey’s Anatomy producer and co-executive producer on the upcoming Grey’s spinoff, the new deal essentially offers over $20 million a year; $575,000 per Grey’s episode, a seven-figure signing bonus and two full back-end equity points on the series, producing fee plus back-end on the Grey’s spinoff, office space on Disney’s Burbank lot and more.
Apart from the milestone, Pompeo’s surprisingly candid interview reveals some very near-misses. Pompeo consulted with creator Shonda Rhimes to renegotiate her own involvement in the future of the series, while the 2015 exit of star Patrick Dempsey proved somewhat contentious behind the scenes. According to Pompeo, producers repeatedly leveraged Dempsey’s role on the show against paying her more, and almost immediately insisted on another male lead in his absence:
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. 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? […]
But the truth is, the ink wasn’t even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy. 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 f—ing nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?’ I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there. We brought in Martin Henderson, but they didn’t love the storyline, so that ended.
The whole piece really is worth a read, especially as Pompeo invokes the current #TimesUp movement and her own experience with Harvey Weinstein as a springboard to “sharing stories and trying to figure out how we can promote change and use our voices to help other people.” Meanwhile, ABC has not yet made official orders for Grey’s Anatomy Seasons 15 and 16, but is likely investing in Pompeo for a reason.
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