Ellen Pompeo: I Nearly Quit Grey's Anatomy (Because of Patrick Dempsey, Basically)

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At this point, we're pretty sure that Grey's Anatomy will never end.

Ellen Pompeo is signed for the next two seasons of the ABC drama, which will take it through year 17... and there's really no conclusion in sight.

The show continues to perform very well for the network on Thursday nights.

As Mer

However, as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors series, the 49-year-old admits that she nearly left the series a long time ago, which likely would have spelled doom for the ratings and the program's future in general.

Why did Pompeo consider quitting?

She got real with Taraji P. Henson, who asked on this special if her fellow actress had ever thought of walking away from the hit ABC series.

"There were many moments," she told Henson in response to this question, adding in more detail:

"It's funny: I never wanted off the bus in the year that I could get off. The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment.

"But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family."

Ellen Pompeo at a Party

Pompeo signed a massive new deal in early 2018, so her family should most definitely be provided for at this point.

That's why we're focused instead on her description of Grey's Anatomy as a "toxic" place to work back in the day.

It's not really too hard to assume that she's referencing a couple specific co-stars with that quote.

First, there's Patrick Dempsey.

Yes, he played Pompeo's love interest for 11 seasons and shared an endless array of beautiful and romantic moments with the show's lead -- but it was also clear for a long time that the two weren't best friends.

Far from it, in fact.

Pompeo has admitted, for example, that she hasn't spoken to Dempsey in years.

Meredith is Listening

His character was killed off after Season 11.

And while Pompeo never mentions Dempsey by name as a source of the issues, she does tell Henson that things got better after that first decade or so on set.

"After Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera," she explains.

"It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years.

"My mission became, this can't be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That's what's kept me.

"Patrick Dempsey left the show in season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could.

"I was on a double mission."

Ellen Pompeo on Season 14

Mission clearly accomplished, as Grey's Anatomy remains one of the top-rated shows on network television.

Pompeo added in this interview that Dempsey was getting paid double what she was in the beginning because he had a "television quote" and she had never done TV.

She revealed the The Hollywood Reporter previously that she once asked for $5,000 more than Dempsey "just on principle."

"They wouldn't give it to me," she told THR. "And I could have walked away, so why didn't I? It's my show; I'm the number one. I'm sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel:

"Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'"

Ellen as Meredith

Pompeo really does get as candid as one can in this discussion.

Heck, she even admits that Grey's Anatomy has suffered in quality for awhile now.

"I haven't been challenged creatively at all. Every once in a while we do an amazing storyline," Pompeo said in her Variety interview, adding:

"But for the last five years, I've had other milestones that we were trying to achieve behind the camera."

Grey’s Anatomy Season 16 will debut on ABC in fall of 2019. Fascinating stuff here, right?

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Ellen Pompeo Biography

Ellen Pompeo Nude
Ellen Pompeo stars on Grey's Anatomy. Maybe you have heard of that show. She was also in films such as Moonlight Mile and Old School.... More »
Everett, Massachusetts
Full Name
Ellen Pompeo