grey's anatomy

Ellen Pompeo Discusses Grey’s Anatomy Salary Backlash: ‘It’s Been a Very Interesting Ride’

Ellen Pompeo. Photo: Getty Images

Despite her protests to the contrary, fans and detractors alike have insinuated the departure of Grey’s Anatomy actresses Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew was due to series star Ellen Pompeo’s new and improved $20 million salary. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Pompeo addresses viewer reaction to the rumors, defending her decision to demand a pay raise, despite the resulting backlash. “I’m glad I did and I’m really glad that it was received in the way that it was received,” she said in part. “But we still have a really long way to go with respect to women supporting women.”

According to Pompeo, her salary bump (and her decision to ask for it) was ultimately based on her “very quantifiable” financial impact on the Shonda Rhimes show. (She is the titular star, after all.) However, the discrepancy in viewer reaction to her success and to her co-stars’ dismissal was, to Pompeo, pretty revealing. “I think it’s still more rare to have women support women when you’re on top,” the actress explains. “I think it’s very easy for women to support women when there’s a victim situation. In my experience, I see that women are really quick to rush to other women’s aid when they’re down, when they’re a victim.”

“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,” Pompeo continued. “It’s still more challenging to get women to support you when you’re actually on top and doing fantastic.”

The rationale given for Capshaw and Drew’s exit from the ABC series this spring was a creative one. On such a long-running show with a sizable cast, the argument went, the writers’ room can simply exhaust the potential of certain characters. Nonetheless, Drew at least has discussed publicly how “painful” it was to be written off the show. “In a way, you almost feel like you’re attending your own funeral,” the actress told Vulture at a pre-Emmys party. “Weirdly. But in a really beautiful way.”

Ellen Pompeo Discusses Grey’s Anatomy Salary Backlash