Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo just became the highest-paid actress on a TV drama, signing a two-year extension with ABC Studios that pays $20 million a year, and $575,000 per episode. That’s awesome—an actress getting a worthy pay bump for her longtime role in a massively successful television drama is good news in its own right—but there’s a bigger reason Pompeo has suddenly become one of my favorite people in this world. To commemorate and comment on her contract extension, the actress gave a candid—emphasis on candid—interview to The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s worth reading the entire conversation—in which Pompeo hits on everything from Faye Dunaway to #MeToo to Jay-Z and drops the F-bomb 10 separate times—but here are some of the excerpts that nourished my soul and added countless years to my life.
Ellen Pompeo on industry perception:
“I’m not the most ‘relevant’ actress out there. I know that’s the industry perception because I’ve been this character for 14 years. But the truth is, anybody can be good on a show Season 1 and 2. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a fuckin’ skill.”
Ellen Pompeo on the Toyota Prius:
“Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin’ Prius today. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. If we’re going to invoke change, that has to be part of it.”
Ellen Pompeo on former Grey’s star Patrick Dempsey:
“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 no. 1. 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.’
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.”
Ellen Pompeo on vacationing:
“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.”
Ellen Pompeo on ABC’s absurd insistence on giving Meredith Grey another love interest:
“The truth is, the ink wasn’t even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy. … 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 fucking 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.”
Ellen Pompeo on Shonda Rhimes:
“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.”
Ellen Pompeo on Harvey Weinstein:
“I went right up to his room at the Peninsula, which I would never normally do, but Harvey was a New York guy, so it made sense. Plus, it was in the middle of the day, and he had an assistant there. He didn’t try anything on me. Had he, I’m a little rough around the edges and I grew up around some very tough people, so I probably would have picked up a vase and cracked him over the fucking head.”
Ellen Pompeo on actors:
“There are behavior problems because actors are miserable that they’re not Leonardo DiCaprio or Margot Robbie. That’s actors: They want to do whatever they’re not doing. You could give them a fucking beautiful chocolate ice cream cone with sprinkles and they’re gonna say they want strawberry.”
Ellen Pompeo on how Jay-Z was right:
“I don’t know if you listened to Jay-Z’s latest album, but in one song he talks about how all the white guys own the record labels and they say to these artists, ‘Oh, here’s a $3 million advance,’ while they’re making billions. The artists are chasing Grammys and Lamborghinis, so they think, ‘Oh yeah, I’m rich.’ Meanwhile, Sony just made fucking $500 million, and they gave you $3 million and you think you’re doing amazing. With Tidal, Jay-Z’s empowered artists by giving them a piece, and it makes them more invested. I love it. And I think, like the music business, we need to get to a place where actors have more ownership over what they do. That should be part of this conversation we’re having now.”
Ellen Pompeo on empowering women in Hollywood:
“Look, I only have a 12th-grade education and I wasn’t a great student, but I’ve gotten an education here at Shondaland. And now my 8-year-old daughter gets to come here and see fierce females in charge. She loves to sit in the director’s chair with the headphones on, yelling ‘Action’ and ‘Cut.’ She’s growing up in an environment where she’s completely comfortable with power. I don’t know any other environment in Hollywood where I could provide that for her.”
Actors everywhere, take note: This is how you do an interview. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy to catch up on.