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Ellen Pompeo Recalls Cussing Out Denzel Washington on Grey’s Anatomy Set

Weird flex. Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Ellen Pompeo has pom-put her foot in her mouth (again). In the debut episode of her new podcast, Tell Me, Pompeo subverted the recent reports regarding her guest Patrick Dempsey’s “terrorizing” on-set attitude by proudly recalling a time when she was the source of drama on Grey’s Anatomy — in front of company, no less. Back in 2016, executive producer and director Debbie Allen surprised Pompeo with Denzel Washington as a surprise guest director on an episode of the ABC medical drama. “Because after you left, I was like, ‘Oh, why do I have to stay here?’” Pompeo explained to Dempsey. “And Debbie was like, ‘No, no, no. You’ve got to stick around. I’m gonna bring in a surprise for you,’ and she would never tell me who it was. But she knew I was a huge fan [of Washington’s].” Pompeo recalled improvising during a scene where a man apologies to her character, Dr. Meredith Grey. “He made this choice to speak very softly,” she said of her scene partner. “And I was pissed that I had to sit there and listen to this apology, and he wasn’t looking at me in the eye. Again, we love actors who make choices, right? And I yelled at him, and I was like, ‘Look at me when you apologize. Look at me.’ And that wasn’t in the dialogue, and Denzel went HAM on my ass.” It’d be wrong if we didn’t immediately question the use of “hard as a motherfucker” here, but it does get worse. “‘I’m the director,’” she said he responded. “‘Don’t you tell him what to do.’”

“And I was like, ‘Listen, motherfucker, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?’ Like, ‘You barely know where the bathroom is,’” she girlbossed. “And I have the utmost respect for him as an actor, as a director, as everything, but like, yo, we went at it one day.” Yo, what about as a professional colleague? Displeased with her director’s direction and directing, Pompeo did the responsible working-adult thing and told on Washington to his wife, Pauletta, an actress herself, when she visited set. “I was like, ‘Yeah, he yelled at me today. Yeah, he let me have it today, and I’m not okay with him, and I’m not looking at him, and I’m not talking to him,’” she keeps going, unprompted. “So we didn’t get through it without a fight, but, you know, that’s actors for you — passionate and fiery — and that’s where you get the magic, and that’s where you get the good stuff. So it was an amazing experience, it really was.” Ah, the old saying “Actors will be actors.”

Denzel Washington hasn’t directed an episode of television since. If we were close to losing our $20 million TV contract (and even closer to losing Black Twitter’s respect), this is simply not the kind of publicity we’d want our podcast to have.

Ellen Pompeo Recalls Cussing Out Denzel Washington