Grey's Anatomy Cast Shakeup: Ellen Pompeo Responds to Theory That Her Raise Is to Blame

Showrunner Krista Vernoff defends her decision and her star, as well.

By Billy Nilles Mar 08, 2018 10:04 PMTags

If you're looking for someone to blame the decision to write Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew out of Grey's Anatomy after the current season, Ellen Pompeo wants you to know that she's not that person.

After news broke that both actresses would not be returning for season 15 of the long-running ABC drama (which has yet to be officially ordered), meaning the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial would be missing two popular female characters come this fall, Deadline's reporting of the casting decision—which was explained by showrunner Krista Vernoff in her statement on the matter as a purely creative choice—made mention of Pompeo's landmark new two-year contract with the show that has made her TV's highest paid dramatic actress. While the outlet did not explicitly assert that the decision to part ways with Capshaw and Drew was a direct result of Pompeo's raise, some have interpreted it that way. Pompeo included.

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With a pair of tweets, Pompeo addressed fans of the show and took the media outlet to task. "Its unfortunate that @DEADLINE chooses to try to pit women against eachother on #InternationalWomensDay #shameonyounotme," she wrote. "I'm a big girl @DEADLINE can take shots at me if they want but to the fans please don't fall into that trap. This is above my pay grade."

Vernoff also took to Twitter to speak out, defending her decision and her leading lady. "Regarding #GreysAnatomy and @EllenPompeo," she wrote, before attaching an image with a lengthier statement. It reads: "The suggestion in the Deadline article that our cast changes are in any way related to Ellen Pompeo's salary renegotiation is wrong and hurtful and misguided. It smacks of an old, broken, patriarchal notion that women must be pitted against each other and that one woman's success will be costly to others. Ellen Pompeo has not only advocated passionately for her fellow cast members, she has taken the time to educate women world wide as to how to advocate for themselves and that must not now be twisted. The decision to make changes to our cast was a creative one. The only thing as constant on Grey's Anatomy as Ellen Pompeo is our penchant for reinvention. It is a part of our success and what keeps the show exciting. We love these actresses and we love these characters and it felt true and right creatively to wrap up their stories. And that is the whole story."


Vernoff's initial statement on the casting shakeup praised Capshaw and Drew's "extraordinary work," but noted, "As writers, our job is to follow the stories where they want to go and sometimes that means saying goodbye to characters we love. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with these phenomenally talented actresses."

Shonda Rhimes also released a statement, saying, "It's always hard for me to say goodbye to any of my characters. Both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner are not only beloved but iconic—both the LBGTQ and devout Christian communities are underrepresented on TV. I will be forever grateful to both Jessica and Sarah for bringing these characters to life with such vibrant performance and for inspiring women around the globe. They will always be a part of our Shondaland family."

Capshaw and Drew have also both tweeted about the matter, with Drew admitting, "I'm sad too. I haven't really had the time to process this information. I've been with it for less than 48 hours, so I'm not ready to say my thank yous and give an all encompassing statement about my 9 years here. That will come later." Capshaw noted of her character, an LGBTQ icon, "I am sad to see her go but I am consoled by the idea that she will live on and on in all of our consciences and imaginations." Capshaw began recurring on the series in season five and was promoted the next year, while Drew began recurring in season six, earning her promotion the following season.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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