Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo stressed the importance of artist ownership, her $20 million deal with ABC and how the industry can learn a thing or two from Jay-Z with The Hollywood Reporter.
The piece perfectly titled, “How I Became TV’s $20M Woman,” shares Pompeo’s journey on the long-lasting medical drama as well as the lessons she’s learned from series creator Shonda Rhimes. “In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me,” Pompeo said Tuesday (Jan. 17). “And that took her a while to get to, too. It was part of her evolution. It’s also why our relationship is so special. 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.”
After 14 years with the series, Pompeo signed a new deal that will have her making over $20 million a year ($575,00 per episode) and equity in the series expected to bring in another $6-$7 million. In addition to signing on for another two seasons, the mother of three will also continue to direct several episodes. It’s lead her to reach a level of confidence in her work and aspirations to break the pay divide between men and women in Hollywood. Pompeo shared how the departure of co-star Patrick Dempsey in 2015 forced her to put her foot down.
“At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey,” she said. “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.”
In addition to the lessons learned from Rhimes, Pompeo says she’s found inspiration from Jay-Z and his Grammy-nominated album, 4:44. While she believes not one solution could fix Hollywood’s pressing issues with pay and creative ownership, she believe’s the mogul’s Tidal streaming service is an example of how to give creatives what they deserve.
“I don’t know if you listened to Jay Z’s latest album, but in one song (“Moonlight“) he talks about how all the white guys own the record labels and they say to these artists, “Oh, here’s a $3 million advance,” while they’re making billions,” she said. “The artists are chasing Grammys and Lamborghinis, so they think, “Oh yeah, I’m rich.” Meanwhile, Sony just made f**king $500 million, and they gave you $3 million and you think you’re doing amazing. With Tidal, Jay Z’s empowered artists by giving them a piece, and it makes them more invested. I love it. And I think, like the music business, we need to get to a place where actors have more ownership over what they do. That should be part of this conversation we’re having now.”
Read the interview, in full, here.