On Wednesday, January 17, beloved Grey’s Anatomy actress opened up like never before in a candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter where she revealed her massive new deal with the hit series which extends her contract into seasons 15 and 16.
The actress also opened up about negotiating salaries with her former co-star and on-screen husband Patrick Dempsey, and how her character moved on from his death.
As for her new deal with the show worth a reported $20 million, after 14 seasons as the star of the show, Pompeo said she knew what she deserved and what she wanted and she was going to get it. “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you,” she said was the piece of advice the show’s creator Shonda Rhimes gave her. She said, “I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age. Because 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 one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a f–kin’ skill.”
Now, the massive deal includes the actress earning $575,000 per episode along with a seven-figure signing bonus and two full backend equity points on the series which is estimated to bring her in another $6 to $7 million.
Although it isn’t common for actors or actresses to discuss what they make in such clear terms with the press, Pompeo said she did it in order to set an example for other women and to set an example for empowerment and opportunity.
As for Dempsey leaving the show, in no uncertain terms, she revealed that his leaving the show is actually what allowed her to get the money she deserved, because before she was always on the back burner in favor of the male star. “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.”
She added, 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? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'”
Pompeo then opened up about what happened after Dempsey did leave, and how quickly they thought they had to get another lead man in, as if they couldn’t believe a woman could possibly lead the series.
” 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–king 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,” she revealed.
Now, with more power on the show than ever, Pompeo simply hopes it is part of a bigger change. ” should also say this: I don’t believe the only solution is more women in power, because power corrupts. It’s not necessarily a man or a woman thing. But there should be more of us women in power, and not just on Shonda Rhimes’ sets […] [My daughter] is 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. Now I hope that changes … and soon.”