Grey’s Anatomy is one of ABC’s most successful shows, running for 16 seasons. But in a new interview with Variety, Ellen Pompeo said that behind the scenes, life was far from a happy success story, even branding her work environment “toxic” for the first 10 years.
“The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment. But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family.”
Ellen continued to explain that despite her unhappiness at her job, she felt that she could not walk away from the generous paycheck because she needed to “take care” of her children. The star has two daughters, Sienna and Stella, and one son, Eli, with husband Chris Ivery.
“My husband says, ‘Closed mouths don’t get fed.’ But if you have to walk, don’t be a victim. If you don’t get what you want, put your big-girl panties on… You can know your worth, but if they don’t know it, you can’t cry,” the Meredith Grey actress continued.
There had often been rumors about Pompeo’s relationship with on-screen love interest Patrick Dempsey. Pompeo was said to have been angered that Dempsey was “never interested” in helping her negotiate for a pay raise, per People. She also confessed that the two have not spoken since 2015 when he left the show.
The negative work environment became so bad that Ellen approached showrunner Shonda Rhimes to fix the culture on set.
“My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes.”
Pompeo added that Rhimes helped “turn the culture around” and was particularly generous with Ellen’s status as a mother, making sure that actress did not have to travel much and be away from her three kids.
Rhimes went on to produce several more shows for ABC, including Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. Per The Hollywood Reporter, she has since inked a deal with Netflix, where she will be creating eight new shows for the streaming giant, including one that documents the scam of fake heiress Anna Delvey. The move net Rhimes a staggering $300 million.
Pompeo herself has also profited from her Grey’s Anatomy fame and has been the highest paid actress on a television drama since 2017, per People.
However, though Pompeo has said the work environment is better, she still has her complaints. According to the television star, she has not been “challenged creatively” for the past five years. However, the actress says that she now focuses on milestones behind the camera.