Ellen Pompeo Admits She Didn't Want Isaiah Washington to Be Her Grey's Anatomy Love Interest

Actress also opens up about Katherine Heigl's controversial departure from the hit ABC show

By Alyssa Toomey Oct 07, 2013 4:33 PMTags
Patrick Dempsey, Ellen Pompeo, Grey's AnatomyABC/SCOTT GARFIELD

Ellen Pompeo has spent the last eight years playing  Dr. Meredith Grey on the hit ABC show Grey's Anatomy, and despite the ups and downs, the actress couldn't be more thankful for her time spent at Seattle Grace.

"Actors always think the grass is greener somewhere else. I didn't want to do that," Pompeo explains in an article in the New York Post titled, "200 episodes in, is Grey's still McDreamy," in which she opens up about her reasons for sticking with the hospital drama after watching both Isaiah Washington and Katherine Heigl exit.

"I have an amazing life," she continued. "I have a house five minutes from the studio, I have a house in the Hamptons, a house in Malibu, a beautiful daughter whom I see every night, and it's all because I didn't leave Grey's Anatomy."

But Pompeo's appreciation for the show doesn't mean that the actress has always been satisfied with the storyline for her character—and she recalls how Isaiah Washington, not Patrick Dempsey, was originally intended to be Meredith's love interest

"You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend," Pompeo revealed. "Shonda [Rhimes] really wanted to put a black man in the mix. I didn't think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn't want him. It was too close to home."

The 43-year-old actress is married to Chris Ivery, an African-American music producer, and she decided it would be best for her character to romance the oh-so-handsome McDreamy.

"I said I wanted that Dempsey kid. I think that once Isaiah did not get the role it backfired," she said of her former costar, whose contract was not renewed for season four after making headlines for his use of homophobic slurs against costar T.R. Knight during an on-set dispute with Patrick Dempsey. 

Washington was the first original castmember to exit the show although T.R. Knight, who played Dr. George O'Malley, and Katherine Heigl, who played Dr. Izzie Stevens, soon followed suit.

And like Isaish's departure, Katherine's was also met with controversy.

"Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control," Pompeo said. "The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me."


Despite her best efforts to steer clear of the drama, Pompeo admits the atmosphere was difficult on set.

"When Katie left, it was tough," she said of her former costar's much-buzzed about departure. "You could understand why she wanted to go — when you're offered $12 million a movie and you're only 26. But Katie's problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off."

But while every season may not have been smooth sailing, the cast currently has a lot to celebrate.

The 200th episode of Grey's airs this Thursday at 10 p.m.