Even the highest paid TV actress has struggled negotiating equal pay

'The show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey'

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'The show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey'

Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo is the highest-paid actress on a primetime drama, with her new two-year-deal with the show earning her £414,000 per episode - that’s over £14 million a year.

However in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the 48-year-old actress opened up about her ongoing behind-the-scenes struggle for equal pay.

‘I’m not the most “relevant” actress out there,’ Ellen explained to the Hollywood Reporter. ‘I know that's the industry perception because I've been this character for 14 years. But the truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that's a fucking skill.’

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But even as the show’s main character - you now, playing Meredith GREY in GREY’s Anatomy, she had to fight behind the scenes to be treated as an equal to her male co-stars.

‘They could always use [Patrick Dempsey] as leverage against me – 'We don't need you; we have Patrick' – which they did for years,’ she explained of her male co-star, referring to his exit from the show as a ‘defining moment’.

‘I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals,’ she explained. ‘But there were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that.’

She continued: ‘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.’

So how did she end up winning her fair pay battle?

‘What happened is that I went to Shonda [Rhimes] and I said, “If you're moving on to Netflix and you want the show to go down, I'm cool with that,”’ she explained. ‘“But if you want it to continue, I need to be incentivised. I need to feel empowered and to feel ownership of this show.”’

Well that’s our career inspiration for 2018 sorted!

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.