The actress says Dempsey would always be used "as leverage" against her during contract negotiations before his exit in 2015.
Ellen Pompeo proved she knows her worth, opening up about her sometimes contentious "Grey's Anatomy" contract negotiations and impressive new deal in an incredibly candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
The actress revealed she'll make more than $20 million a year under her recently-inked deal, which covers the current season and two more after that (even though the show hasn't been officially renewed just yet). According to THR, she'll take in $575,000 an episode, make another 7-figures as a signing bonus, an estimated $6-7 million in backend points on "Grey's" and a producing fee for the show's upcoming spinoff.
So, how did that happen? Let Pompeo explain: "What happened is that I went to Shonda [Rhimes] 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.' And she was like, 'I absolutely want to keep the show going. It's the mothership, so let's find a way to make you happy. What do you want?'"
Explaining that working as an actress on the show is "frustrating for me creatively" because she "cannot appear anywhere else" as part of her deal, she said "it's got to be a ton of money" for her to return. She also wanted a contract that would allow her to foster her producing goals, saying "that's my creativity now." Calling acting dreams outside of "Grey's" "pretty unrealistic" at the age of 48, Pompeo added, "Acting, to me, is boring ... not that I can't do a cool cable thing, but I'm not going to have this whole second life as a movie star. I'm not f-ckin' Julia Roberts."
Pompeo also addressed how Patrick Dempsey leaving the show became a "defining moment" for her "deal-wise." Dempsey's character was killed off in 2015, after alleged tension between his co-stars and Rhimes.
"They could always use him as leverage against me — 'We don't need you; we have Patrick' — which they did for years," she explained. "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."
She said she didn't walk away from the series when that happened because she thought, "Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy ... I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house."
Pompeo also criticized the show for quickly adding another male character -- Martin Henderson's Nathan Riggs -- to the series as a replacement.
"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," she revealed. "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."
"Grey's Anatomy" returns from its mid-season hiatus on Thursday, airing at 8pm on ABC.