Right now, ABC's Grey’s Anatomy seems like a paradise for women creatives. Shonda Rhimes created the history making series, which is heading into its 16th season this fall. Ellen Pompeo has become one of television’s highest paid actresses thanks to her work as the unstoppable Meredith Grey. Showrunner Krysta Vernoff presides over all the soapy hospital drama, leading to days where women almost entirely run the show behind the scenes. Yet, Grey’s wasn’t always so perfect — just ask Pompeo herself, like Empire’s Taraji P. Henson recently did.
“The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment,” Pompeo told Henson during an actress-to-actress Variety interview.
It was during that decade — yes, Pompeo suffered through a decade of “toxic” behavior — that OG star Isiah Washington left the series after using a homophobic slur on-set. A year later, Katherine Heigl called out the Grey’s team for allegedly failing to give her material worthy of Emmy consideration. Two years later, Heigl left the series. Eventually, Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey’s Derek Shepherd was killed off amid various flavors of rumors, including suggestions of possible bad blood between the actor and the sprawling Grey’s Anatomy family.
“But after Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years,” the Grey’s star said. One of those shifts includes the death of Meredith's husband Derek — whose portrayer was making nearly double Pompeo’s salary in the early days — at the end of season 11.
“My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That’s what’s kept me,” Pompeo admitted. Well, that goal has kept Pompeo going along with the idea of proving her network wrong. As she has said multiple times over the years, ABC didn’t believe Grey’s could survive after Dempsey’s 2015 exit. “So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission,” Pompeo added.
Well it looks like that mission was accomplished. Not only does Pompeo say the Grey’s Anatomy team “turned the culture around,” but the series was given a double season renewal in May 2019. Now you can watch Grey's guilt free — and isn't that what Meredith Grey would want?