It pays to pretend to be a doctor.
In April 2021, a viral TikTok mocked Pompeo for making so much bank on Grey's Anatomy despite her character, Meredith Grey, lying in a hospital bed battling COVID-19 for much of the show's 17th season.
Set to Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars," the video depicts a woman sleeping in a hospital bed, captioned, "Ellen Pompeo knowing she's making $600,000 per episode."
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While the pandemic-themed season doesn't see Grey having too much action (beyond in her dreams), it doesn't mean Pompeo shouldn't earn those big bucks. In fact, it's why she's been on the show for so long: She revealed on Jemele Hill Is Unbothered, “I made a decision to make money. For me, personally, a healthy home life was more important than [my] 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. A happy home life was really something I needed to complete.”
She added that her age played a role in the decision as well: The ageist and sexist nature of Hollywood isn't always conducive to women over 40 finding success. “I knew coming up on 40, I don’t want to be out there chasing things, running after things, begging,” she said. “I’d rather just see this as the blessing that it is.”
Ellen Pompeo's net worth is staggering, and her hustle is no joke. Here's how she got the salary she deserves for being on one of the biggest network dramas ever.
How much is Ellen Pompeo worth?
Pompeo's net worth is estimated to be $80 million.
How much does Ellen Pompeo make each episode?
At her peak, Pompeo raked in a whopping $550,000 per episode of Grey's Anatomy.
Who is the highest paid cast member of Grey's Anatomy?
That would be the titular Meredith Grey, with Ellen Pompeo making $20 million per season.
How much does Ellen Pompeo make per season?
Between her per-episode fee, plus her syndication income, Ellen Pompeo makes about $20 million or more per season of Grey's Anatomy.
What other movies and shows has Ellen Pompeo been in?
Prior to Grey's Anatomy, Pompeo appeared in episodes of Law & Order, Strangers With Candy and Strong Medicine, as well as movies including Moonlight Mile, Catch Me If You Can, Daredevil and Old School.
How much is Ellen Pompeo's Grey's Anatomy salary?
In 2018, Pompeo revealed her $20 million annual salary for Grey's Anatomy. It made her the highest-paid actress on a drama series. She makes $575,000 per episode, plus a signing bonus in the millions, and backend "points" that will likely amount to an additional $6 million to $7 million. She explained that while she was initially hesitant to ask for more money, when she saw how much revenue the series generated, she became emboldened to get what she deserves.
She told The Hollywood Reporter, "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.'"
Why did Ellen Pompeo do Grey's Anatomy?
Despite her movie deals in the early 2000s, Pompeo's work was drying up, and she said her agent encouraged her to audition for Grey's Anatomy to pay her rent. She was initially opposed to the idea. "I was like, 'I'm not going to be stuck on a medical show for five years,'" she recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "'Are you out of your f**kin' mind? I'm an actress.'"
Ellen Pompeo fought for pay parity with her male Grey's Anatomy co-stars
Pompeo said that Patrick Dempsey leaving Grey's Anatomy in 2015 gave her more leverage to negotiate her salary.
"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," she said. "There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. 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.'"
Ellen Pompeo credits Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes for her negotiation tactics
Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter that Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes hyped her up to ask for what she's worth. Rhimes said the advice she gave Pompeo was simple: "Decide what you think you're worth and then ask for what you think you're worth. Nobody's just going to give it to you."
"As a woman, what I know is you can't approach anything from a point of view of 'I don't deserve' or 'I'm not going to ask for because I don't want other people to get upset,' " Rhimes added. "And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world."
Ellen Pompeo denied her salary was why Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew left Grey's Anatomy
Pompeo expounded on her salary fight on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
"I think, you know, there are certain moments where it's important to be really truthful about our pain and about our struggles," she said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She praised Ellen DeGeneres for her own bravery in coming out and explained that it inspired her to come forward about the gender wage gap on Grey's Anatomy. "Sometimes you have to go through painful things to just be an example if you have a platform." She added, "I think as women sometimes we're afraid to ask, we're afraid to be vocal, we're taught not to be. They like us quiet...It's really important to encourage each other and encourage other women to stand up and be strong and know that we'll be OK, and we have each other's backs."
Pompeo also reiterated that her high salary had no bearing on the salaries of her exiting female co-stars Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew, noting, "It's absolutely not true...It's important for us to not pit women against each other."
Ellen Pompeo makes money moves behind the camera, too
In addition to acting on Grey's Anatomy, Pompeo is also an executive producer of the spinoff series Station 19. She also owns her own production company and inked a massive deal with Amazon for a series about American fashion designers. Pompeo also dabbles in directing, though she admitted to The Hollywood Reporter that she doesn't really enjoy doing it.
Ellen Pompeo gets paid for #sponcon on Instagram
Pompeo hustles hard outside of Grey's Anatomy, even though with a $20 million salary you'd think she'd just, you know, enjoy her downtime. While some celebrities shill for detox teas and other shady and harmful goods, Pompeo opts for greener pastures: She's endorsed Young Living Seedlings and even Martha Stewart's CBD products. She also endorsed Philosophy skincare and fragrances.
Ellen Pompeo makes money in real estate
Pompeo and husband Chris Ivery listed a Hollywood Hills mansion for $2.8 million in 2018, 13 years after snatching it up for $1.5 million. Three miles away, she had another Hollywood Hills pad that she sold for $2.08 million. In 2017, the couple listed a home in Sag Harbor (in the swanky Hamptons) for $3.8 million. The pair also own a Malibu beach house (valued at around $6.4 million) and a Los Angeles mansion where they spend most of their time.
Next, get a look inside Whoopi Goldberg's net worth.