Ellen Pompeo felt uncomfortable talking about her big Grey’s Anatomy deal, but she didn’t let that feeling stand in her way from speaking her mind.
“At first it felt incredibly uncomfortable and awkward to talk about money and I think that that was precisely why I had to do it,” Pompeo told E! News while partnering with Young Living Essential Oils. “Because basketball players and baseball players are celebrated and lauded for these big giant contracts…women, for some reason aren’t seen in the same way…I thought, ‘Well, there’s a bigger reason than just me to do this.'”
Pompeo said she’s heard from women all over since opening up about her Grey’s Anatomy contract, women who thanked her but also shared their fears about speaking out about pay.
“I thought as just a pay it forward moment—it may be seen as audacious and bold to talk about my salary, but the meaning behind it was my—my reasoning was genuine with generosity of spirit just to kind of encourage and empower other women it wasn’t…a way to brag about…I wanted to show my struggles, that it isn’t easy, but if you’re bold and you do speak up and if you do say unpopular things then you just might be part of some change,” Pompeo said.
Following Pompeo’s The Hollywood Reporter cover story about her lucrative new contract, news broke that Jessica Chapshaw and Sarah Drew would be leaving the show. Fans started linking those two things together, which Pompeo quickly shot down.
“I have a relationship with these women. I work with them every day and that was really hurtful, not only to me, forget about me, it was hurtful to them,” Pompeo said. “This is hard enough. They’ve been part of our family for 10 years. They’re an enormous part of the show, and it was hard enough.”
The actress and producer said the cast and crew were trying to process the exits together, and alluding to her contract as the reason for Capshaw and Drew leaving was hurtful to all involved.
“It doesn’t help for fans who supposedly love us and love the show and support us to then try to cause problems for us—isn’t cool and ultimately it’s why women have to start speaking up, right? Because it’s patriarchy at its best, is to say because one woman gets something, the other women won’t,” she said. “That’s what they’ve wanted us to believe and I just have to continue forward and celebrate my female coworkers. Support them and uplift them and be transparent and honest is really all we can do.”
In a statement, creative reasons were alluded to as the genesis of the exits.
“The characters of Arizona and April are permanently woven into the fabric of Grey’s Anatomy thanks to the extraordinary work of Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew,” Krista Vernoff, co-showrunner and executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy, said in a statement. “As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses.”
Click play on the video above to hear more from Pompeo.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays, 8 p.m. on ABC.