As the star of beloved medical drama Grey's Anatomy and producer to the upcoming spin off series, Ellen Pompeo has learned how to take charge both in her role and as an actress in show business.
In a recent interview, she reveals the behind-the-scene power plays she has faced down with the producers. According to her, the biggest shift in the show was Patrick Dempsey's departure in season 11, which gave her a bargaining chip to turn the tables on the network.
"They could always use him as leverage against me —‘We don't need you; we have Patrick'—which they did for years," she said. "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."
However, once Dempsey left things began to change, and Pompeo was able to negotiate the largest salary of any woman on television right now.
After Dempsey was written out of the show, the studio was anxious to get Pompeo into another relationship ASAP.
"First, it looks like a ratings spike, and I had a nice chuckle about that. But the truth is, the ink wasn't even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy," said Pompeo, "I couldn't believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there."
Martin Henderson's character, Nathan Riggs, didn't last long on the show, and in the absence of a love triangle Pompeo decided it was time to get paid what she was worth.
In the latest deal, Pompeo looks forward to $575,000 an episode for the upcoming three seasons, and an estimated $7 million signing bonus. Altogether, bringing her earnings up to $20 million a year.
"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," Pompeo says. "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****in' skill."