Ellen Pompeo defended herself after calling Grey's Anatomy 'toxic,' saying 'we all have the power to change' damaging workplace cultures

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for GLSENEllen Pompeo attends the GLSEN Respect Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on October 19, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
  • Ellen Pompeo defended her comments calling “Grey’s Anatomy” a “toxic work environment” in a Variety interview.
  • Pompeo told “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson that the show had “serious culture issues” behind the scenes.
  • The star encouraged others to work to change toxic workplace culture, writing on Twitter: “That’s the story we all have the power to change!”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Ellen Pompeo doubled down on her comments calling Grey’s Anatomy a “toxic work environment,” and highlighted the change she brought to the show’s culture.

Pompeo told “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson in an interview for Variety that she has thought about quitting the show many times because of the “serious culture issues” behind the scenes.

“The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behaviour, really toxic work environment,” she said, speaking of the show. “But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family.”

Pompeo pushed back on reactions to her comments on Twitter Saturday, pointing to her work behind the scenes that “changed that story.”

“Hey! Anyone having feelings over Variety piece,” Pompeo wrote. “It’s not worth getting yourself upset over not singling anyone out..as a show we all had a part to play in the environment me included..as many workplaces do..We changed that story. That’s the story we all have the power to change!”

Pompeo previously made headlines when she reportedly negotiated a payout of $US575,000 per episode in 2018.

Read more: Ellen Pompeo said she almost quit ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ after learning Patrick Dempsey was paid double what she was

The show has had years of well-documented drama, including Isaiah Washington’s 2007 exit after allegedly using a homophobic slur in arguments with cast members TR Knight and Patrick Dempsey. Katherine Heigl left in 2010 after she withdrew her name from Emmy consideration because she believed her material in the show didn’t “warrant an Emmy nomination.

Pompeo, set to reprise her role when “Grey’s Anatomy” returns for season 16 next fall, became the highest-paid actress on a TV drama for the $US20 million deal she’s promised for the show’s fifteenth and sixteenth seasons.

Money aside, Pompeo said in her Variety interview that she was primarily focused on changing the show’s culture.

“I haven’t been challenged creatively at all,” she says of the show. “Every once in a while we do an amazing storyline. But for the last five years, I’ve had other milestones that we were trying to achieve behind the camera.”

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