'Grey's Anatomy' star Ellen Pompeo details long path to 'unprecedented' $20 million contract

PHOTO: Ellen Pompeo appears in a scene on "Greys Anatomy." PlayRichard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images
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It's been a long road for "Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo to becoming TV's highest-paid actress in a drama.

After almost 15 years as the lead of ABC's flagship medical show, Pompeo will now be making $575,000 per episode, or $20 million per year in total, under a new deal. She will also receive backend points, meaning a percentage of the show's profits, and added internal support for her production company, Calamity Jane.

The actress spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the game-changing deal, for what she hopes will be inspiration to other women in her profession. The cover story was written in her own words.

"I'm 48 now, so I've finally gotten to the place where I'm OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age," the article began.

She described one reason she believes she has earned her place. "The truth is, anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that's a f------ skill."

Pompeo also spoke about how Patrick Dempsey leaving the show in 2015 and former ABC powerhouse creator Shonda Rhimes were motivations for her to pursue the new deal, but for vastly differing reasons.

"So, what does it look like when [Patrick] leaves the show?" she said. "First, it looks like a ratings spike and I had a nice chuckle about that."

In the case of Rhimes, the actress and producer said the show creator "empowered me" with her network success. After "Grey's Anatomy," Rhimes created a slew of hit ABC shows like "How to Get Away With Murder" before moving on to Netflix earlier this year.

"I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty," Pompeo said. "So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented."

PHOTO: Producer Shonda Rhimes and actress Ellen Pompeo attend ABCs TGIT premiere event in this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo in West Hollywood, Calif. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic via Getty Images, FILE
Producer Shonda Rhimes and actress Ellen Pompeo attend ABC's TGIT premiere event in this Sept. 26, 2015 file photo in West Hollywood, Calif.

In fact, Pompeo said she went to Rhimes before she departed ABC and said, "If you're moving on to Netflix and you want the show to go down, I'm cool with that. But if you want it to continue, I need to be incentivized. I need to feel empowered and to feel ownership of this show."

Pompeo also focused on her efforts behind the camera and made sure the deal would allow her to further her producing career, along with fattening her wallet.

Furthermore, she said the Time's Up initiative -- which comes on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and aims to combat sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood, while working towards gender equality -- has "confirmed that my path really was the right one for me."

"Acting, to me, is boring. An actor is the least powerful person on set, so I don't care about chasing roles. Plus, at my age, it's pretty unrealistic," Pompeo said.

"I've chosen to financially empower myself so that I never have to be ducking predators and chasing trophies. It's not for everyone. You have to be more interested in business than you are in acting," she continued. "I should also say this: I don't believe the only solution is more women in power, because power corrupts. It's not necessarily a man or a woman thing. But there should be more of us women in power, and not just on Shonda Rhimes' sets."

PHOTO: Ellen Pompeo appears in a scene on Greys Anatomy. Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images
Ellen Pompeo appears in a scene on "Grey's Anatomy."

What her 8-year-old daughter Stella gets to experience, Pompeo added, is one of the issues that solidified her cause the most.

"She loves to sit in the director's chair with the headphones on yelling 'Action' and 'Cut,'" she explained. "She's growing up in an environment where she's completely comfortable with power. I don't know any other environment in Hollywood where I could provide that for her. Now I hope that changes, and soon."