For 14 years, Ellen Pompeo has starred as Meredith Grey on the hit ABC series Grey's Anatomy. As the show continued to thrive, so did Pompeo's demands for equity in the workplace.
On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter published a new, amazingly candid interview with Pompeo, in which she dished on everything from her annual salary, to on-set drama, to thoughts on gender equality in Hollywood.
Here's are some of the best quotes:
1. Before landing her role as the lead on Grey's Anatomy, Pompeo was adamant about being a movie star. "I'm not going to be stuck on a medical show for five years," she told her agent after he approached her with the script. "Are you out of your fuckin' mind? I'm an actress."
2. Now at 48 years old and after 14 seasons of Grey's, Pompeo said that she's "finally gotten to the place where I'm OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age."
"Because I'm not the most 'relevant' actress out there," Pompeo said. "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 1 and 2. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that's a fuckin' skill."
3. In 2017, the actor signed a new deal in which she stands to make $575,000 per episode for Grey's. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this will propel Pompeo to earning $20 million annually, when factored with other sources of income, making her the highest-paid actress on a primetime drama.
In addition to that, Pompeo will bring in another $6–7 million thanks to a seven-figure signing bonus, as well as a producing fee from the forthcoming Grey's Anatomy spinoff.
Pompeo also has other projects in the works, including an anthology show that she recently sold to Amazon and a potential legal drama that could be picked up by ABC.
4. Pompeo was extremely forthcoming when discussing how she's not "necessarily perceived as successful," though she says she's more in control than a younger actress who's in "a few big movies" and "probably being paid shit."
"And they're going to pimp her out until she's 33 or 34 and then she's out like yesterday's trash, and then what does she have to take care of herself?" Pompeo said.
"These poor girls have no real money, and the studio is making a fortune and parading them like ponies on a red carpet.
"I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin' Prius today. Now, there's nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. If we're going to invoke change, that has to be part of it."
5. Though she'd been the lead of the show for 14 years, Pompeo said the studio wouldn't give in to her one-time request to earn $5,000 more than former costar Patrick Dempsey. When Dempsey left the show in 2015, Pompeo said it was a "defining moment, deal-wise."
6. According to Pompeo, when Dempsey left the series, Grey's experienced "a ratings spike, and I had a nice chuckle about that." But, she said, the studio was determined to find a man to replace him.
"The ink wasn't even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy," Pompeo said, recalling how she was being badgered while on vacation in Sicily to decide on a new male costar. "I was like, 'Are you people fucking 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," she added.
7. When Rhimes signed a multiyear production deal with Netflix last year, Pompeo was direct with her about how she would need to be "incentivized" if the show were to continue.
8. During meetings with other Hollywood actresses for the Time's Up initiative, Pompeo said "sitting in rooms full of Oscar-winning actresses listening to how they've been preyed upon and assaulted is frightening," which is why she speaks up about being compensated fairly.
"It confirmed that my path really was the right one for me, because I've chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies," she said. "It's not for everyone. You have to be more interested in business than you are in acting."
9. Pompeo said that she once met with alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein at the request of her agent. "He didn't try anything on me," she said. "Had he, I'm a little rough around the edges and I grew up around some very tough people, so I probably would have picked up a vase and cracked him over the fucking head."
10. Finally, Pompeo honed in on gender equality in the entertainment industry, saying, "I don't believe the only solution is more women in power, because power corrupts."
"But there should be more of us women in power, and not just on Shonda Rhimes' sets," she said.
The actor said she loves taking her 8-year-old daughter to the set to "see fierce females in charge."
"She's growing up in an environment where she's completely comfortable with power," she said. "I don't know any other environment in Hollywood where I could provide that for her. Now I hope that changes … and soon."