“Anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a f*ckin’ skill.” – Ellen Pompeo
Recently, Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo made headlines for signing a contract to make her the highest-paid actress on television — $20 million per season for her 14th and possibly 15th and 16th seasons on the ABC medical drama. But Pompeo didn’t come upon that contract lightly — as she tells The Hollywood Reporter, she had to stand up for herself in negotiations in order to get paid what she felt she deserves.
Pompeo explains that her longevity and success on Grey’s Anatomy has given her confidence in asking for fair compensation for her work. She explains, “I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age. Because I’m not the most ‘relevant’ actress out there. I know that’s the industry perception because I’ve been this character for 14 years. But the truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a fuckin’ skill.”
Nonetheless, Pompeo points out that despite all her TV success she still isn’t held in the same esteem as her male movie star counterparts — and young actresses are seen as even “lower” than that. She continues, “I’m not necessarily perceived as successful, either, but a 24-year-old actress with a few big movies is, even though she’s probably being paid shit — certainly less than her male co-star and probably with no backend. And they’re going to pimp her out until she’s 33 or 34 and then she’s out like yesterday’s trash, and then what does she have to take care of herself?”
So how did Pompeo end up the highest-paid woman on television? She determined her value to the series and the level of commitment and asked for it. She says, “‘I don’t get to do anything else, and that’s frustrating for me creatively. I make 24 episodes of TV a year, and as part of this deal, I cannot appear anywhere else. And directing is cool but, to be honest, it just takes me away from my kids.’ Then I said, ‘So, it’s got to be a ton of money. And it has to help me with my producing because producing is something I really enjoy. That’s my creativity now.’ Acting, to me, is boring. An actor is the least powerful person on set, so I don’t care about chasing roles. Plus, at my age, it’s pretty unrealistic. Not that I can’t do a cool cable thing, but I’m not going to have this whole second life as a movie star. I’m not fuckin’ Julia Roberts.”