Ellen Pompeo Has Opened Up About Her Behind-The-Scenes Battle For Pay On Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy is rolling out its 19th season with some big news for fans: Ellen Pompeo is officially leaving the show. The longest-running primetime medical drama of all time has survived multiple cast reshuffles over the years while continuing to be the top scripted series on ABC. Yet Grey’s’ beloved main star has remained a permanent fixture for 17 years — until now. Pompeo has been very vocal about battles over her salary in the past, and now she’s finally saying goodbye to the show. So what exactly went down?

All about the money

It’s interesting to note that Pompeo actually got into Grey’s Anatomy in the first place because of money. Her performance in the 2002 film Moonlight Mile had won her rave reviews — but it hadn’t led to the glittering movie career she was hoping for. And in 2004, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Pompeo was running out of cash. Then she received the script for Grey’s Anatomy.

Taking a chance

At first, Pompeo wasn’t interested. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to be stuck on a medical show for five years,’” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “‘Are you out of your mind? I’m an actress.'” But her agent convinced her to go for the pilot episode because, if nothing else, she would at least be able to earn some money. And her decision proved to be a very, very good one — financially speaking.

The drama behind the scenes

But despite the show itself constantly celebrating women’s achievements, it seemed that the same wasn’t always the case behind the scenes. In fact, the show’s production was often a hotbed of drama. For instance, in 2010 — after two years of reported tensions — actress Katherine Heigl left the show. Pompeo later spoke about the reasons for Heigl’s decision, and it's perhaps not surprising that money was involved.

Offered a bigger paycheck

“You could understand why she wanted to go,” Pompeo told the New York Post in October 2013. “When you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26. But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise, and then tried to get off the show.” So, it seemed that even in the show's earliest days, Pompeo was thinking about money. But this wasn’t the half of it.