Ellen Pompeo Says a Steady Paycheck Kept Her on 'Grey's Anatomy'

She's played Meredith Grey for 15 years.

Viewers wondering why Ellen Pompeo has stayed on for Grey's Anatomy's entire run while her co-stars have moved on from the Shondaland stalwart finally have an answer. During an appearance with Jemele Hill on her podcast, Unbothered, Pompeo said that the biggest thing keeping her on Grey's is stability and the ability to have a family life while she's filming.

"For me, personally, a healthy home life was more important than career. I didn't grow up with a particularly happy childhood," she said. "So the idea that I have this great husband and these three beautiful children [and] a happy home life was really something I needed to complete, to close the hole in my heart."

Ellen Pompeo
VALERIE MACON / Contributor

Pompeo explained that her age did factor into her decision to remain on the show. She told Hill that if she had started the show earlier on in her career, she probably wouldn't have extended her original six-year contract. But because she was older (by Hollywood standards) when the show debuted, she said that she felt comfortable enough to stay on.

"I got in the game late. I didn't start Grey's until I was 33, and then I started having kids at 40. If I started the show when I was younger, [like] 25, I probably would have dipped out when I was 31, 32, [when] my six-year contract was up, but my age had a lot to do with it," she added. "I don't want to be out there chasing things, running after things, begging — I'd rather just see this as the blessing that it is."

People reports that Pompeo shares a son Eli, and two daughters, Sienna and Stella, with her husband, Chris Ivery. In 2018, reports stated that Pompeo had negotiated an annual paycheck of $20 million, which made her one of the highest-paid actors on TV. In addition to her reported $575,000 per episode, Pompeo also earns rakes in a producing fee on the Grey's spin-off, Station 19.

She went on to say that the show has allowed her to pursue other passions. She said that she's working to address and reform the systemic racism in America's healthcare industry. Because she's not worried about finding new gigs, she can focus on advocacy. The ability to balance both is something that she calls a "gift" from Grey's.

"I'm not trying to run away from anything. It is who I am. I made my choices and I'm cool with it. And I actually have a real passion, which is to sort of start to talk about and break down systemic racism in the healthcare industry. This is something that has plagued us forever. And I think the show has given me a real window into that," she said. "That's a platform I'm very passionate about, and I'm going to continue down that path and try to do more work in that arena. So Grey's has been a gift and I choose to see it that way."

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