Do you remember the exact moment when Denny Duquette took his last breath? Were you overcome with sadness when you realized Mark Sloan and Lexie Grey weren’t going to pull through? Are you still struggling to accept that Derek Shepherd is really, truly gone? You’re not alone.
For 14 seasons and more than 300 episodes, the characters — and fans — of ABC’s beloved medical drama Grey’s Anatomy have endured one excruciating tragedy after another. But while many of the faces and storylines have changed over the years, there remains one constant: Ellen Pompeo, who has played the role of Dr. Meredith Grey from the beginning with, well, surgical precision.
The 48-year-old actor, who has three children (Stella, 8, Sienna, 3, and Eli, 1) with husband Chris Ivery, has had a very big year. She made her directorial debut with two episodes of Grey’s, executive-produced the new ABC spinoff series Station 19, and officially became the highest-paid actress in a TV drama, negotiating a $20 million salary after a hard-fought battle with the network. And now, she’s partnered with the brand Young Living on the launch of Seedlings, a line of essential oil-infused baby care products.
We sat down with Pompeo in New York to chat about clean living, motherhood, the evolution of Shonda Rhimes and — cue the tears — what to expect from the Grey’s season finale. Keep reading to find out which episode is her favorite, the one departed character she wishes she could bring back and lots more.
SheKnows: What attracted you to partner with Young Living Essential Oils?
Ellen Pompeo: I’m a big essential oil lover; I use them all the time. I use them when I clean. I wear them as a fragrance every day. I didn’t use them when I cook until now.
SK: I didn’t even know you could cook with them!
SK: Me either! And if you show me something that I don’t know, after 48 years, I’m down. They sent me the products and the Seedlings line. I have a little baby, so I was using the diaper rash cream and the body butter on him. I was like, I love this! And then they educated me about the company mission statement, and how they have their own farms and their own fields, and how they treat their workers, and how they’re trying to build schools for the farm workers’ kids. I really think they’re trying to be on the right side of things. They have a good mission and a plant-based mission. And let’s face it: This planet is in big trouble. I have a platform, and it’s something I believe in, and it’s super easy for me, so it seemed just like a really natural fit.
SK: Do you have any favorite oils?
EP: I have a lot of favorites. I love geranium, I love rose, I love jasmine, I love frankincense, I love vetiver, I love orange. I put vetiver and orange on my [3-year-old] daughter to calm her down, and when I don’t do it, she comes to me and she’s like, “Mommy, can I have my oils?” I started out having to chase [my kids] around, putting the oils on, and now I don’t have to. They come to me. They love it so much. It brings them comfort, and they feel nurtured and taken care of, and I feel good that I’ve given them a tool to self-soothe.
SK: Your whole family recently went vegan. How are your kids adapting?
EP: Amazing. My daughter just called me, she’s here in New York City — I made a mommy-daughter trip out of it — and she’s with my assistant today, seeing the sights. She was so proud to call me and tell me that at lunch she ordered vegan chili all by herself. And I was really proud of her. It’s something that she’s feeling empowered by, which I love.
SK: Does she have any awareness of the fact that you are the highest-paid actress on TV? Are you talking to her about gender inequality, or emphasizing that your girls will likely have to fight harder than your son for the same rights, voice and pay grade?
EP: I have more pressing issues to talk to her about and to worry about. I have to worry about her having active shooter drills in her school and lockdown drills. How easy it is to get a gun, and how toxic all the food is, and how toxic the air is, and how toxic the water is, and the extinction of species. I had to tell her the last white rhino died, and explain why human beings kill all these incredible, magnificent animals. So, I have about 50 other things to get to before I talk to her about gender inequality.
SK: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about motherhood?
EP: Never a mistake, always a lesson.
SK: What is your favorite episode of Grey’s Anatomy?
EP: I have a couple, but my most memorable favorite was the two gay soldiers [“The Becoming”]. We’re such a show for the masses, and I think the fact that we’re able to tell stories and show America that, yes, there are soldiers who are gay, yes, gay men exist, and yes, gay men can be soldiers, can fight for our country, can be brave and can also be gay. And women, too. I’m super proud to be part of a show that promotes racial equality, includes the LGBT community, talks about transgender issues and tackles all these important things.
SK: If you could bring back any character on Grey’s — dead or alive — who would it be?
EP: Sandra Oh. I think she’s the finest, finest, finest actor there is.
SK: Can you tell us anything about the Season 14 finale?
EP: Just that you can’t miss it. We’re gonna torture you a little bit first, but then if you want the happy ending, you have to watch the finale. Not that it’s such a happy ending, because those two characters [April Kepner, played by Sarah Drew, and Arizona Robbins, played by Jessica Capshaw] are leaving the show, but they’re going in kind of a happy way.
SK: What would you say is the most realistic thing about Grey’s Anatomy and the most unrealistic?
EP: I think the most realistic thing is that a lot of doctors are pretty hot! And the most unrealistic is, I don’t know if people are really having sex like that in on-call rooms in hospitals — it seems a little crazy to me. I mean, maybe it’s true, but I don’t want to know about it if it’s true.
SK: Do you remember the first time you heard the name Shonda Rhimes?
EP: Yeah! It didn’t mean much at the time. She was a different version of herself then. She wasn’t the powerhouse then that she is now, and that’s been one of the most incredible things about this journey, watching her evolution — watching her come into her power and watching her have this incredible success. And having a front-row seat to that has been quite remarkable.