Ellen Pompeo Opens Up on 'Grey's Anatomy' Exits & Denies Tie to Her Paycheck
"Grey's Anatomy" fans just flew a plane over the ABC show's studio to show their love for Sarah Drew (April Kepner) and Jessica Capshaw (Arizona Robbins). Amid that support for the two unexpectedly departing cast members has been some ire directed at "Grey's" lead Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey).
Pompeo just talked about the backlash Thursday on Ellen DeGeneres's show.
"Grey's Anatomy" loses characters all the time, whether the actors want to leave the show or not. But in this case, it was shocking to lose the main LGBTQ character in Arizona, and the other half of Japril in April.
The timing was especially bad for Pompeo, since she just got a Hollywood Reporter cover revealing her $20 million payday for "Grey's Anatomy" and new producer status with the show after 14 seasons. She's now the highest paid woman on a TV drama.
Since Ellen Pompeo's $20M headline was followed by two longtime stars leaving the show against their own will, fans decided to connect the two and blame Pompeo.
Never mind that ABC is part of the Disney family, and Disney also owns Lucasfilm, Marvel, soon 20th Century Fox, and at least 90 percent of Heaven itself. If they wanted to pay Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw more money, they could've. Easily. "Black Panther" just made $1 billion and counting -- there's money in the till. And if Robert Downey Jr. can make $80 million a year from Marvel movies, don't go thinking the Disney family is short on cash.
"Grey's" is still a hugely popular show, with new fans showing up every day from streaming the early seasons on Netflix. It's a money-maker. The budget should be substantial (especially with Patrick Dempsey's paycheck gone). And if names need to be cut, you don't start with Arizona and April. Try all of the interns.
The showrunners said the cast shakeup was a "creative" decision not based on money. They, and Pompeo, spoke out on social media denying Pompeo's paycheck was connected to the cast shakeup.
Pompeo just spoke out again, this time on "Ellen." DeGeneres (who makes a lot more than Pompeo) talked about people approaching the story from "a place of lack" -- equating the idea that when one person makes money it means another person won't get money.
Pompeo agreed, adding, "There's that notion -- this is a much broader conversation -- but 'Because you have, means I don't get' is a very deep-rooted thing where racism and sexism is based. And so it's important to talk about that and simply dispel it and say it's simply not true."
Here's where they delved into the nitty gritty of Sarah and Jessica leaving, and fans blaming Ellen P:
Ellen DeGeneres: "There's rumors that it's because -- they're using the excuse that they're paying you so much that there's not enough money to pay them to come back. That is absolutely not true."
Ellen Pompeo: "It's absolutely not true. I mean, I'm not involved in these kind of decisions, however, there's a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons. One of them is the writers have a really hard time creatively thinking up new stories for all these characters. I think we have 16 regular cast members. And it's always sad when we lose people for whatever reason. Whether they want to go or don't want to go, it doesn't make it any easier."
DeGeneres: "I just want to make sure because I don't want that to be a perception out there that it's somehow attached to your paycheck. Because they're leaving for different reasons."
Pompeo: "I appreciate you doing that. Thank you. I think that it's important for us to not pit women against each other and to really dispel the notion that women are always victims. You don't have to pit us against each other. We're not enemies. We do lift each other up and support each other, and we're not victims. We're very strong and we're capable of many, many things."
It is sad that the writers couldn't come up with more stories for Arizona and April, but that's not Ellen Pompeo's fault.
It's also sad that Pompeo's positive story of a woman standing up for what she's earned after 14 seasons was used against her by her own fans. You never see that kind of anger directed at male stars when their castmembers leave shows. Did anyone call out top-paid "The Walking Dead" stars Norman Reedus or Andrew Lincoln for making too much money to keep Chandler Riggs around? No, and they shouldn't have. You blame the showrunners for the "creative" decision, or the network suits for being cheap.
Anyway, "Grey's Anatomy" Season 14 continues airing Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC, with both Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw in the ensemble cast for the rest of the season.
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