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Ellen Pompeo was originally going to be 'lying naked on the couch' in the opening scene of the 'Grey's Anatomy' pilot, according to a new book

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Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in the "Grey's Anatomy" pilot, "A Hard Day's Night." Disney/ABC/Netflix
  • A new tell-all book revealed that "Grey's Anatomy" almost began completely differently.

  • The pilot's director wanted the first shot to be "Ellen [Pompeo] lying naked on the couch."

  • Shonda Rhimes fought for Meredith and Derek's one-night stand because execs thought it was "trashy."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A new tell-all book about the hit medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" revealed that our introduction to Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) almost looked completely different.

"My original opening for the pilot was Ellen lying naked on the couch," said director Peter Horton, according to "How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey's Anatomy" by Entertainment Weekly's editor at large Lynette Rice. Horton directed the pilot episode of the series and served as an executive producer from 2005 to 2007.

In the pilot that ultimately aired, the first image we see is a blurry pair of legs that quickly melds into gloved hands performing surgery. But in Horton's version, the camera stays on Meredith. "We had a very tight lens that was out of focus, going over all the curves of her body," Horton said.

He clarified that the shot was so blurry, "you didn't even know what it was" at first, and the plan was to have her body come into focus as she opened her eyes. "It was a beautiful description of 'Grey's Anatomy,'" the director said, adding that he "kind of" regrets not fighting to keep the shot in.

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey in a scene from "Grey's Anatomy"
Meredith and Derek in a scene from "Grey's Anatomy." Michael Ansell/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

If you pay close attention to the first shot, there is a silhouette of a woman's body imposed on the beeping heart monitor right before Meredith wakes up, but Horton's original idea would have taken too much time.

"Plus, Shonda [Rhimes] had an instinct to start the show off with more of a bang than the grace of that," the director said, according to the book.

Horton wasn't kidding. The "bang" he's referring to is a one-night stand between Meredith and Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), though they don't realize they work together yet.

According to the book, which draws from old Entertainment Weekly interviews with Shonda Rhimes, in 2005, the first-time showrunner had bigger battles to fight about the opening scene, too. The entire premise of "Grey's Anatomy" as we know it was almost shot down by network executives.

shonda rhimes
Shonda Rhimes. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

"I got called into a room with a bunch of people who said, 'You can't put a woman on television who had sex with a guy the night before she started work,'" Rhimes said, according to the book. The creator claims execs told her that "no woman does that" and if she does, she's "trashy."

"There were all these old men in the room, and I had no idea how to respond," Rhimes recalled. That's when her producing partner and friend Betsy Beers stepped in to help. "She opened her mouth and said, "I f---ed a guy the night before my first day of work," Rhimes said. "She told the raunchiest story, and none of the men could get away fast enough. And no one ever brought it up again."

An unnamed former ABC Studios executive confirmed that "big debates" happened about the first-ever "Grey's Anatomy" scene because "most of the men wanted to take the scene out" and said it took the "heroine to a place where she's too promiscuous."

After Beers' story, the unnamed executive said, "We did the right thing and listened to them."

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