She also shares the equation that got her a record-breaking raise, and what her husband thought of her McDreamy makeout scenes.

Advertisement
Ellen Pompeo
Credit: Phil Poynter

After coming out of a highly publicized salary negotiation as one of TV's highest paid actresses, it's safe to say Ellen Pompeo knows her worth — and she's also not afraid to toss her weight around when the situation requires.

"I have a lot of privilege, so that has allowed me to stand up and say what I think and what I feel because I have a certain level of power," she tells InStyle's editor in chief Laura Brown during this week's episode of Ladies First with Laura Brown. "I feel protected to do that — I wasn't always."

She explains to Brown that confidence was something that came with age. "I think there's something that just hits you when you turn 50 where you literally don't give a fuck," she says. "At 50, you don't do anything you don't want to do."

The actress jokes about that same old catch-22 — that we learn to appreciate what we had once it's starting to fade.

"You spend your whole twenties criticizing yourself, comparing yourself to other women, thinking you're not good enough," she says. "And then in your thirties, you're sort of still doing that a little bit and figuring it out. The forties, I think you really start to feel yourself, and right when you start feeling yourself in your forties: fifties. You're like, 'Oh my goodness. Don't leave me. Youth, skin, come back!'" she jokes before adding, "Life is really quite cruel, actually. When you think about it, youth is wasted on the young."

Ellen Pompeo Doesn't Do Anything She Doesn't Want To: Episode 35: July 27, 2021

InStyle Ladies First with Laura Brown

Duration: 46 minutes

This podcast may contain cursing that would not be appropriate for listeners under 14. Discretion is advised.

Sure, some of that confidence probably comes from the insight and experience Pompeo gained being on one of the most popular television dramas, Grey's Anatomy, for the past 17 years.

"I can see people now in a work environment and really see how they're performing," she says. "I know how sets run, and I know when someone is burnt out. I know when someone is afraid to speak up, and I know when someone is bored and not contributing. I know when a director's phoning it in. I can see people's behavior pretty clearly."

So best not to try faking it around Pompeo, because she'll be able to tell. She keeps it extremely real, herself. In a revelatory Hollywood Reporter story, the actress opened up about how she got to be network television's highest-paid woman. She tells Brown, "You can think you're worth something, but you also have to be able to back that up with real, hard numbers and show that you're able to generate money," she says. "No one really gives a fuck what you think you're worth. These people in business affairs run these numbers and decide what people will be paid. You have to speak a different language." In the podcast above, she translates that language and explains exactly the kind of talk that landed her the raise.

Sure, things on the set of Grey's haven't always been perfect. It took her 10-plus years to finally get what she deserved in the work place. And she tells Brown that while she and her cast mates had something very special, there was also a lot of competition, which led to occasional fights on set.

But all in all, she reminisces about the early days on set and her old cast mates like Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, and of course, her McDreamy TV-husband played by Patrick Dempsey.

"During the early days we all really had something," she said "We had a lot of fun back then."

The early cast's palpable chemistry has always made the show that much more believable, and created a real emotional reaction from the audience. She and and former co-star Dempsey (who returned for an epic beach wedding dream sequence on the most recent season) had so much chemistry that her husband Chris Ivery used to get jealous during those kissing scenes.

"Poor guy had no idea what he was getting into," she says. "I remember in the beginning it was really hard for him. He was like, 'This is not what I signed up for. You go to work and make out with that. I like Patrick and everything, he's a good dude, but like really?'"

Listen to the full episode and subscribe on ApplePlayerFMSpotifyStitcher, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. And tune in weekly to Ladies First with Laura Brown hosted by InStyle's editor in chief Laura Brown, who speaks to guests like Michelle Pfeiffer, Emily RatajkowskiCynthia Erivo, Naomi Watts, La La Anthony, Ellen Pompeo, Rep. Katie Porter, and more to discuss current events, politics, some fashion, and, most importantly, the major firsts in their lives.