Ellen Pompeo almost turned down the role of Dr. Meredith Grey on “Grey’s Anatomy” because she is a hypochondriac.
“When my agent first called and said, ‘You know, ABC would love you to do this medical pilot,’ I said, ‘Oh, I hate medical shows,’” Pompeo told “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan. “'They make me anxious and I'm a hypochondriac and I can't possibly do it.'"
Pompeo, 47, changed her mind and took the role. Now 14 seasons later, the show about a fictional hospital that has seen its share of car wrecks, mysterious illnesses and love triangles is preparing to air its 300th episode.
The stars of “Grey’s Anatomy,” including Pompeo, sat down with Strahan in an interview that aired today on “GMA” to share their thoughts on hitting that landmark.
“It’s the biggest compliment to us to hear, you know, kids say, you know, ‘My mom watched and now she watches me watching,'” said Chandra Wilson, who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey. “So they get to enjoy that together and we're just very complimented by it.”
Wilson, 48, said she and her co-stars also hear “over and over” from people who were inspired to go into medicine through the show.
For Pompeo, serving as an inspirational role model for young girls is her favorite part of playing a doctor on TV.
“I get to sort of be a superhero in scrubs and play an ordinary person. Surgeons are ordinary but they're extraordinary, right?” Pompeo said. “She's very real and very flawed but very strong.”
She continued, “I think that all of our viewership, especially the young girls, really look to her for strength and that's my proudest achievement.”
Pompeo, Wilson and their co-stars Justin Chambers, 47, and James Pickens Jr., 63, took Strahan behind the scenes of their lives as fictional doctors, from scrubbing their hands pre-surgery to looking at the operations board to see their assignments.
“Grey’s Anatomy” relies on a medical team to keep the show realistic. The show is so realistic that off-camera the actors are sometimes mistaken for the doctors they play on TV.
"I have been on a plane twice when the flight attendant has kind of earnestly looked at me when they needed a doctor," said Jesse Williams, 36, who plays Dr. Jackson Avery. "Looked at me and began to ask me or expect me to get up and do it."
As the show approaches episode No. 300, Pompeo said it was the very first episode, the pilot, that remains her favorite.
When asked whether she will make it to celebrate a potential episode No. 600, Pompeo replied with a laugh, "I'll be in a wheelchair."
The 300th episode of "Grey's Anatomy" will air Thursday in ABC's "TGIT" lineup.