Ellen Pompeo Recalls Grey's Anatomy's 'Toxic' Early Seasons: It Was a 'Disaster Behind the Scenes'

Ellen “Pulls No Punches” Pompeo is opening up about the turbulent early seasons of Grey’s Anatomy — and she is Not. Holding. Back.

“The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment,” the actress recalls in a new interview with TVLine’s sister pub Variety. “But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family.”

Although Pompeo does not point fingers at anyone in particular, she says that the culture on the Grey’s set improved dramatically “after Season 10” in the wake of “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,” she continues. “My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. [Series creator] Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That’s what’s kept me [from leaving].”

Pompeo says she also stuck around because she had something to prove. “Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead,” she recalls. “So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission.”

The interview comes on the heels of Pompeo extending her Grey’s deal through May 2021 (aka the series’ 17th season).

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