For Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey's exit from Grey's Anatomy was a turning point. The move, which happened in season 11, was a "defining moment, deal-wise," Pompeo said in The Hollywood Reporter.
"They could always use him as leverage against me —‘We don't need you; we have Patrick'—which they did for years. I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that," Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter. "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. 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,'" she continued.
Now Pompeo has a new deal, which extends her presence in front of the camera on Grey's Anatomy for at least two more years through season 16 (ABC has yet to renew the series) and gives her a producer role on both Grey's and the upcoming untitled Grey's Anatomy spinoff. E! News has confirmed the new deal. And according to THR, this new contract, which includes backend equity points on the show, will net Pompeo $20 million a year, making her TV's highest paid dramatic actress.
But this didn't happen immediately after Dempsey left the show. Grey's is now in season 14.
"So, what does it look like when he leaves the show? First, it looks like a ratings spike, and I had a nice chuckle about that. But the truth is, the ink wasn't even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy," Pompeo revealed. "I was on vacation in Sicily, decompressing—it was a long working relationship and it was a tumultuous end and I needed a moment to just chill with some rosé—and they're calling me, going, ‘What do you think of this guy?' ‘What do you think of this guy?' And they're sending pictures. I was like, ‘Are you people f--king nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?'"
"I couldn't believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there," she continued. "We brought in Martin Henderson, but they didn't love the storyline, so that ended."
Henderson joined the show in season 12 after Dempsey's McDreamy was killed off. He left the show in season 14 after a love triangle developed. Henderson's character, Nathan Riggs, went off to Los Angeles to be reunited with his (presumed dead) love. Megan Hunt (Abigail Spencer).
"It doesn't work that way in Shondaland. It's handed down. If there are certain concerns or tweaks in a scene, the writers are open to hearing your thoughts and collaborating, but the direction of the major storyline is decided on high. I only had a short-term contract with the show," he told Deadline. "This is my final year so I was expecting Nathan's storyline to be wrapped up. Bringing in Megan and tying up loose ends, provided a reason. That was always intended when they brought Megan back with a twist. The triangle played out nicely, the way they gave perspective leading up to her disappearance, the mutual infidelity; the way it was handled was interesting. It's been a couple of fun years on the show."
For more on Pompeo's new deal and how she negotiated the landmark contract, read her full piece in The Hollywood Reporter.
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays, 8 p.m. on ABC.