Ellen Pompeo Gets Real on Demanding a Higher Pay & What She Deserves

The Shonda Rhimes hit Grey's Anatomy is 15 seasons in and will have a 16th season in the works, thanks to its recent renewal contract. The fact that the show has been on-air for nearly 13 years is a pleasant surprise, just like the agreement Dr. Meredith Grey just signed. The contract makes Ellen Pompeo the highest paid actress in dramatic television, where she will be making over $20 million per year and about $575,000 per episode.

The contract was empowering for Pompeo, who had to demand what she wanted. The actress opened up about this process in her interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Rhimes was more than encouraging. "As a woman, what I know is you can't approach anything from a point of view of 'I don't deserve' or 'I'm not going to ask for because I don't want other people to get upset,'" Rhimes said. "And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world."

She told Pompeo to go for what she wants. "Decide what you think you're worth and then ask for what you think you're worth," she remembered telling Pompeo. "Nobody's just going to give it to you."

The request for a $20 million dollar deal wasn't super hard for Ellen. "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 said. "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." Get it, girl. 

In the past, when Patrick Dempsey was still on the show, Pompeo might not have had it as easy when it comes to asking for more money. "For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise," Pompeo said. "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. 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."

Okay, what?

Thankfully, this didn't last after Dempsey left. "Things have changed, though. In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me," Pompeo said. "And that took her a while to get to, too. It was part of her evolution. It's also why our relationship is so special. I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented." Aw, how sweet!

Pompeo ended the interview expressing her hope for the future of Hollywood if the industry follows in Shonda's footsteps.

"I 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," Pompeo said. 

I couldn't agree more!