Ellen Pompeo has played the main character on Grey’s Anatomy for 14 years. The show still gets 12 million viewers and is second in ratings only to The Good Doctor on ABC. This gave Ellen the power to demand $20 million a year going forward. She told The Hollywood Reporter that her deal includes half a million per episode, signing bonus, backend on this show and a Grey’s spinoff and a place for her Calamity Jane production company on the Disney lot. She’s disclosing this in the hope that other women in Hollywood will start making deals that also match their worth. Go Ellen.
On knowing her worth: 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 fuckin’ skill.
On why Patrick Dempsey’s onscreen demise changed the game: “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.”
On Grey’s immediately replacing Dempsey with another dude: “I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there.”
On how she negotiated her record-breaking new deal: “What happened is that I went to Shonda and I said, ‘If you’re moving on to Netflix and you want the show to go down, I’m cool with that. But if you want it to continue, I need to be incentivized. I need to feel empowered and to feel ownership of this show.’”
On her meeting with Harvey Weinstein: “My agent once sent me to see Harvey, too. 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. But I also feel completely comfortable saying that I walked into that room batting the shit out of my eyelashes. My goal in that room was to charm him, as it is in most rooms like that.”
Ellen is the main character on Grey’s Anatomy and believes she’s getting her due. She’s right, and any male actor in her position would have been given a similar deal. I love her attitude on this. Ellen once asked for $5K more than Dempsey on principle and they wouldn’t give it to her, likely because of their bs leverage tactics she discussed. She doesn’t say much more about the Dempsey drama other than “it was a tumultuous end.” I don’t think there is any love lot there. Ellen stressed more than once in the interview that she made the choice to secure her family financially but that this does satisfy her creatively. She finds her creative outlet now in producing, which is why she worked that into her deal. She said her path is not for those who want variety in acting because they’d have to be willing to stay as one character. I like how practically and realistically she breaks this down. Ellen gave Shonda much of the credit for teaching her the business end of Hollywood and how to make it happen. I can believe that. And Shonda is just as committed to Ellen, saying, “The show will go on as long as Ellen wants to do it.”
I’m conflicted about Ellen’s Weinstein story. Its hers and I want to respect that. Maybe I don’t understand her point about batting her eyelashes. I appreciate she is trying take some responsibility about going to the meeting but I’m not sure she worded it properly. It’s questionable when people who were seemingly not in danger imply that they would have escaped without harm. I don’t find it fair to the victims.
Photo credit: Michael Rosenthal/The Hollywood Reporter and WENN Photos