ELLEN Pompeo has given a brutally honest interview, admitting when her hit show Grey's Anatomy first took off, she remembered thinking she "was f**ked."
In a refreshingly blunt interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor claimed she only auditioned for the medical drama to pay the rent, but never wanted to do TV - she was supposed to be a movie star.
Fourteen years of playing Dr Meredith Grey later, that's obviously changed - and she couldn't be happier about it.
"... 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? "These poor girls have no real money, and the studio is making a fortune and parading them like ponies on a red carpet. I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a f**kin' Prius today. Now, there's nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power."
Pompeo admitted that despite appreciating her steady income, she's had plenty of frustration at the lack of diversity in her work - and it's what pushed her to ask for a major pay rise.
"What I said to Shonda is the truth: "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."
The actor recently secured a $25 million annual deal ($716,000 per episode), which premiered in 2005 - but it wasn't easy.
"What happened is that I went to Shonda [Rhimes] and I said, 'If you're moving on to Netflix and you want the show to go down, I'm cool with that. But if you want it to continue, I need to be incentivised. I need to feel empowered and to feel ownership of this show."
She added: "CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and Grey's has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that's generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, "OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this."
But before she successfully negotiated the hefty paycheck, Pompeo had an uphill battle.
"For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise. They could always use him as leverage against me - 'We don't need you; we have Patrick' - which they did for years. I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that."
"At one point, I asked for $6,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey. They wouldn't give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn't I? It's my show; I'm the number one. I'm sure I felt what a lot of these other actors feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, 'I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'"
After Dempsey left, Pompeo said the studio was rushing to replace him with another male leading actor.
"The truth is, the ink wasn't even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy," she explained.
"I was on vacation in Sicily, decompressing - it was a long working relationship and it was a tumultuous end and I needed a moment to just chill with some rosé - and they're calling me, going, 'What do you think of this guy?' 'What do you think of this guy?' And they're sending pictures. I was like, 'Are you people f**king nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?'
"I couldn't believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there. We brought in Martin Henderson, but they didn't love the storyline, so that ended."
She also opened up about her tumultuous relationship with the producers and her other co-stars on the show, revealing how "f**king nuts" the situation turned after Patrick Dempsey quit.
"It was a lot of rivalry, a lot of competition. It starts with actors behaving badly, and then producers enabling them to behave badly," she said. "And, by the way, I'm guilty of it, too. I saw squeaky wheels getting all the f**king grease, so I was like, 'OK, that's how you do it,' and I behaved badly as well."
Despite all the dramas, Pompeo insisted she has no regrets about her career path.
"I'll tell you, sitting in rooms full of Oscar-winning actors listening to how they've been preyed upon and assaulted is frightening. And it confirmed that my path really was the right one for me, because I've chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies. It's not for everyone. You have to be more interested in business than you are in acting."
The star also opened up about her encounter with Harvey Weinstein, who's been accused of preying on dozens of actors.
"My agent once sent me to see Harvey, too. I went right up to his room at the Peninsula, which I would never normally do, but Harvey was a New York guy, so it made sense," explained Pompeo.
"Plus, it was in the middle of the day, and he had an assistant there. He didn't try anything on me. Had he, I'm a little rough around the edges and I grew up around some very tough people, so I probably would have picked up a vase and cracked him over the f**king head. But I also feel completely comfortable saying that I walked into that room batting the s**t out of my eyelashes. My goal in that room was to charm him, as it is in most rooms like that."
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