Grey’s Anatomy 2018: Ellen Pompeo, Dramatic TV’s Highest-Paid Actress

On March 27, 2005, ABC debuted the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy from a then unknown creator, Shonda Rhimes. The show became an instant smash hit.

But the series’ star, Ellen Pompeo, the Grey of Grey’s Anatomy, thought she was supposed to be a movie star.

Raised in a blue-collar, Boston suburb by her father and grandparents (her mother died of an overdose when Pompeo was 5), she found her way to Hollywood.

Her breakout role was playing the love interest in the 2002 film Moonlight Mile. She recalls: “Sam Mendes, Steven Spielberg, Warren Beatty, they were all, ‘We were blown away by this performance’ and ‘You’re a superstar.'”

But by 2004, her movie career had stalled and she was broke.  Her agent, CAA’s Rick Kurtzman, brought her the script for Grey’s Anatomy. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to be stuck on a medical show for five years,’ ” she remembers telling him. ” ‘Are you out of your fuckin’ mind? I’m an actress.'” He convinced her to audition anyway, if only to pay the rent.

Fourteen years later, Pompeo signed a new deal that will make her TV Drama highest-earning actress. The expansive pact covers Grey’s‘ current season and a 15th and 16th season after that.  Rhimes says, “The show will go on as long as Ellen wants to do it.” Pompeo credits her boss and mentor, who recently signed a nine-figure deal of her own at Netflix, with empowering her to overcome any doubts about her own worth and to demand the best possible deal.

“As a woman, what I know is you can’t approach anything from a point of view of ‘I don’t deserve’ or ‘I’m not going to ask for because I don’t want other people to get upset,’ ” Rhimes says now. “I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world.”

Grey’s Anatomy has been drawing nearly 12 million viewers 300-plus episodes in, making it ABC’s No. 2 drama, behind only fall 2017 entry The Good Doctor.

Airing in some 220 territories around the world, the show is a multibillion-dollar franchise for ABC parent Disney. Rhimes recalls giving Pompeo a simple piece of advice: “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you.”