Ellen Pompeo says ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ used to be a ‘toxic’ workplace – shading Patrick Dempsey

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The Grey’s Anatomy star, who’s not afraid to talk equal pay or race, talked about how her long-running ABC show, which she’s been on for 15 years, has changed in recent years. She made it very, very clear that it’s a better place to work now than it was in the beginning.

Asked if there were times she wanted to quit, Pompeo replied, “There were many moments. It’s funny: I never wanted off the bus in the year that I could get off. The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment. But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family.”

However, “At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money?” she continued. “I need to take care of my kids. But 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. My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes.”

She said she and creator Shonda Rhimes “decided to rewrite the ending of this story.” They hav since “turned the culture around.” And “that’s what’s kept me,” she continued. “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.”

Pompeo went on to talk more about Dempsey, whom she has said she hadn’t talked to since he left the show in 2015. She spoke of their pay disparity when they started the show — with the Can’t Buy Me Love actor making double what she made as a TV newcomer — and mentioned how while he was the bigger name, his previous TV projects had failed.

“‘He’s done 13 pilots,’” she recalled being told. “Well, none of them have gone [to series],” she said. At that point, Henson burst into laughter and Pompeo giggled too. “I didn’t even realize until we were renegotiating Season 3. No one was offering that up.”

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