As the highest paid cast member on Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo’s net worth has been a hot topic among fans for years. Pompeo made her debut as Meredith Grey in the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy in March 2005. The ABC medical drama, which was created by Shonda Rhimes, follows a team of surgeons at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (formerly known as Seattle Grace) in Seattle, Washington.
Pompeo is one of three original cast members still on Grey’s Anatomy, alongside Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber.) In an interview with Variety in 2020, Pompeo looked back on her audition for Grey’s Anatomy. “I was offered the role, and I was contemplating whether to take it or not,” she said. “I was concerned about being on a TV show—you have to sign these contracts for six years. And at that time, I had only ever done movies. I had never done TV before. So the idea of being on a TV show for six years was a little scary. And my agent said, ‘Oh, just do the pilot and make the money. These things never go.’ So.”
Little did she know that Grey’s Anatomy would air for more than a decade and become the longest-running medical drama of all time. “Well, it was wild, because we had already finished shooting the whole first season. We had one day left. So we premiered on Sunday night, and we had to go in Monday for our last day of shooting,” she said. “So our last day of shooting for season 1, we came in and the ratings were through the roof. And we had an incredible lead-in — we had Desperate Housewives, which was a monster — we had the blessing of being ushered in by those women.”
More than a decade after the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy, there’s no doubt that Meredith Grey is the chief of our hearts. Ahead is what we know about Ellen Pompeo’s net worth and how much she makes on Grey’s Anatomy.
According to a 2020 report Forbes, Pompeo makes $550,000 per episode on Grey’s Anatomy. She also receives about $6 million per year from her share of syndication profits. All in all, Forbes reports that she makes $19 million per year. The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2018 that Pompeo’s salary is even higher, with $575,000 per episode, plus syndication revenue and royalties. According to the magazine, Pompeo makes $20 million, which includes $6 million to $7 million for two full backend equity points on Grey’s Anatomy. She also received a six-figure signing bonus in 2018, according to THR.
In an essay for THR, Pompeo revealed why she asked ABC for a raise after her co-star, Patrick Dempsey, left Grey’s Anatomy in 2015. Now, maybe it’s my Irish Catholic upbringing, but you never want to [be perceived as] too greedy. Or maybe it’s just that as women, that’s our problem; a guy wouldn’t have any problem asking for $600,000 an episode,” she wrote. “And as women, we’re like, ‘Oh, can I ask for that? Is that OK?'”
She continued, “I’d call Shonda and say, ‘Am I being greedy?’ But CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and Grey‘s has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that’s generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, “OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this.”
So what is Ellen Pompeo’s net worth? Well, according to Celebrity Net Worth, Pompeo is worth a massive $80 million, which includes the $19 million to $20 million she receives each year from Grey’s Anatomy, as well as her income from other business ventures, such as her production company, Calamity Jane, and endorsement deals with brands like Pantene, Lyf Mobile and Nirav Modi.
In an interview on the “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast” in 2020, Pompeo explained that she stayed on Grey’s Anatomy for so long because of the financial stability. “You know, I made choices to stay on the show,” she said. “For me, personally, a healthy home life was more important than career. I didn’t grow up with a particularly happy childhood. So the idea that I have this great husband and these three beautiful children [and] a happy home life was really something I needed to complete, to close the hole in my heart.”
She continued, “And so I made a decision to make money, and not chase creative acting roles. I don’t like chasing anything ever, and acting to me, in my experience, was a lot of chasing. You’ve got to chase roles, you’ve got to beg for roles, you’ve got to convince people … and although I produce and it’s the same kind of thing, I think I still do it from a place of, I’m never that thirsty because I’m financially set.”
Pompeo also explained her age one of the reason she remained on Grey’s Anatomy. “I got in the game late. I didn’t start Grey’s until I was 33, and then I started having kids at 40,” she said. “If I started the show when I was younger, [like] 25, I probably would have dipped out when I was 31, 32, [when] my six-year contract was up, but my age had a lot to do with it.” She continued, “I knew coming up on 40, it’s like, I don’t want to be out there chasing things, running after things, begging. I’d rather just see this as the blessing that it is.”
While Pompeo acknowledged that “it’s pretty common for actors to try to run away from stuff they’re super well-known for,” she has no shame for her role on Grey’s Anatomy. “I understand that completely, but at my age and where my life is, I just try to lean into it,” she said. “I’m not trying to run away from anything. It is who I am. I made my choices and I’m cool with it. And I actually have a real passion, which is to sort of start to talk about and break down systemic racism in the healthcare industry. This is something that has plagued us forever. And I think the show has given me a real window into that.” She continued, “That’s a platform I’m very passionate about, and I’m going to continue down that path and try to do more work in that arena. So Grey’s has been a gift and I choose to see it that way.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. Here’s how to watch it for free.
For more about Grey’s Anatomy, read Lynette Rice’s behind-the-scenes book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy. In the New York Times Bestseller, Rice investigates the past decade and a half of Grey’s Anatomy and reveals the never-before-told stories behind the controversial exits (and firings) of cast members like Isaiah Washington, Katherine Heigl and Patrick Dempsey, who left the show after accusations he “terrorized the set.” How to Save a Life is a must-read for any Grey’s Anatomy fan.
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