Ellen Pompeo Says Her Grey's Salary Negotiation Moved Other Women to Tears

Sep 24, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Ellen Pompeo speaks onstage during the Edelman session at the Cannes Lions Festival 2018
Image: Francois G. Durand/Getty Images.

Grey's Anatomy hasn't officially been renewed beyond the upcoming season 15, but star Ellen Pompeo, who plays title character Meredith Grey, signed a contract in late 2017 that attaches her to the project through at least season 16. The contract also made her the highest-paid female actor on television today, and while that is a huge accomplishment, some critics believe her pay increase is what pushed Grey's to write two other women out of the show after season 14.

More: Grey's Anatomy Could Be Done After Season 16 — Here's Why

Entertainment Weekly asked Pompeo about her contract renegotiation — and the feedback on it — when she did a recent photo shoot for a special collector's cover of the magazine. She acknowledged her particular privilege in being able to ask for what she deserved for her work on Grey's and said that oftentimes, when women succeed, it's harder for other women to feel a responsibility to hold them up.

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“Women approached me on the street in tears — crying — and it is really interesting how as women we are really not used to, or accustomed to being forceful and asking for what we want, or asking for what we deserve, or speaking up, or speaking our mind," Pompeo told EW. 

She added, "It’s been a very interesting ride, the whole topic of standing up for yourself and what it takes to get yourself emotionally to the place where you’re comfortable doing that. Of course, it was a challenging thing to do right, because I’m in a very specific situation. Like I had said in the past, I had very quantifiable numbers that I could derive my number from. Not everybody has the blessing to be able to do that. You don’t know how your work impacts your workplace."

Pompeo did not speak directly to the accusations that her raise forced out Grey's Anatomy cast members Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw after the season 14 finale. However, when Deadline reported on their departures in March and mentioned Pompeo's new contract in the article, seemingly tying the situations to each other, Pompeo did speak out on Twitter.

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On March 8, Pompeo tweeted, "Its [sic] unfortunate that @DEADLINE chooses to try to pit women against each other on #InternationalWomensDay #shameonyounotme." She added, "I'm a big girl @DEADLINE can take shots at me if they want but to the fans please don't fall into that trap. This is above my pay grade." 

In speaking to EW, Pompeo said her contract renegotiation and the ensuing debacle after the Deadline article paints a specific picture of how women are pitted against each other: "I’m glad I [renegotiated] and I’m really glad that it was received in the way that it was received, but we still have a really long way to go with respect to women supporting women," she said. 

She added, “When there’s a victim situation and other women can come in like, ‘Let me help you,’ they can be empowered because they’re helping someone who’s down. It’s still more challenging to get women to support you when you’re actually on top and doing fantastic.”

More: This New Grey’s Anatomy Season 15 Poster Focuses on Meredith & Her Future

Women discussing equal pay are bound to face backlash, but Pompeo's honesty on this topic is absolutely necessary. It reminds us that women not only need to be fighting for equal pay and discussing it with each other, but supporting one another in a fight that affects us all.

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