Ellen Pompeo has been playing Meredith Grey on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy since 2005, helping her earn the well-deserved title of TV’s highest-paid actress on a primetime drama. Now, the star is revealing that her historic 16-season run hasn’t always been drama-free.
In fact, she said that the Grey's set was a "toxic" place to work, admitting that there were "many moments" where she was ready to leave the show.
"The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment," Pompeo told Empire's Taraji P. Henson for Variety.
Pompeo continued playing Meredith Grey as a means to provide for her family. She said that she was worried that she wouldn't be able to get the same paycheck at another job.
"Once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family," she explained. "At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money? I need to take care of my kids."
The actress said that the environment and set culture began to change once the show reached its tenth season. Pompeo recalled collaborating with Grey's showrunner Shonda Rhimes to implement the necessary changes that were needed to make working on the show enjoyable for everyone.
"After season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. 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," she said. "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."
Pompeo also said that she stayed on the show to make a point to the producers. She got candid about the aftermath of co-star Patrick Dempsey's departure with Henson, explaining that the network thought the show couldn't go on without a male lead when he left Grey's Anatomy in 2015.
"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," she said.
Are you shocked to hear that Ellen almost left Grey's Anatomy? Or that producers thought that the show would crumble after McDreamy left? Are you still watching Grey's Anatomy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!