Get Ready to Be Schooled, Because Ellen Pompeo's Class on the Gender Pay Gap Is Now in Session

Ellen Pompeo knows that she’s not the “most ‘relevant’ actress out there.” The Grey’s Anatomy star says so herself in a poignantly candid interview with THR, which was released yesterday and is worth reading in full.

The 48-year-old TV veteran also knows her worth: $575,000 per episode. After a contract signed late last year, Pompeo officially became the highest-paid actress in a primetime drama — no small feat. Now, she’s opening up about exactly what it took for her to secure that title in the hopes to shine a light for other actresses.

In the interview, Pompeo makes the connection between adequate earnings and the MeToo movement, stating she’s “chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies.”

Pompeo says that her “financial empowerment” came, in part, with age. “I’m 48 now, so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve.”

Fourteen years after Pompeo undertook the role of Meredith Grey — which she initially accepted just to pay the rent — the show continues to garner 12 million viewers a week. “The truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two,” admits Pompeo. “Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that’s a fuckin’ skill.”

A skill, which Pompeo understands better than anyone, deserves adequate compensation. Compensation that not only includes $20 million for two years of Grey’s, but, as THR reports, also includes a seven-figure signing bonus, a producing fee, backend on this spring’s Grey’s spinoff, and space for Pompeo’s production company, Calamity Jane, on Disney’s Burbank lot. Phew.

So, what can we learn from Ms. Pompeo’s rather impressive negotiating prowess? Quite a lot. Sit back and get ready to be schooled, because Ellen Pompeo’s class is now in session. 

Empowerment starts with fair compensation:

“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 fuckin’ Prius today. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. If we’re going to invoke change, that has to be part of it.”

Think big picture:

“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.'”

Women in power must lift up other women:

“In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me… I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power.”  

Stand by your principles:

“At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than [Patrick Dempsey] 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 actresses 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.”

And finally, be realistic:

“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.”



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