Grey’s Anatomy cast feuds and ‘bad behaviour’ caused by long working hours, says Ellen Pompeo

Adam White
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC-TV/Kobal/REX)
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC-TV/Kobal/REX)

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo has argued that many of the show’s cast feuds and “bad behaviour” behind the scenes were caused by long working hours.

The long-running medical drama, which began in 2005, became notorious early in its run due to reports of tension between its cast.

Actor Isaiah Washington was dismissed from the show in 2007, shortly after being publicly criticised by his co-stars Katherine Heigl and TR Knight over allegations of using a homophobic slur on set. Washington denied the allegation.

Both Heigl and Knight later left the show at their own request, amid rumours of dissatisfaction with the material they had been given.

In a new feature on the show’s forthcoming 17th season for Variety, showrunner Krista Vernoff suggested that much of the drama stemmed from “young people navigating intense stardom for the first time in their lives”, adding: “I think that a lot of those actors, if they could go back in time and talk to their younger selves, it would be a different thing. Everybody’s grown and changed and evolved – but it was an intense time.”

Pompeo, one of just three actors who have remained on the series since 2005, argued that the length of each Grey’s Anatomy season (usually between 22 and 25 episodes) was the root cause of cast conflict.

“Nobody should be working 16 hours a day, 10 months a year – nobody,” Pompeo said. “And it’s just causing people to be exhausted, pissed, sad, depressed. It’s a really, really unhealthy model. And I hope post-COVID nobody ever goes back to 24 or 22 episodes a season.”

Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ABC-TV/Kobal/REX
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ABC-TV/Kobal/REX

She continued: “It’s why people get sick. It’s why people have breakdowns. It’s why actors fight! You want to get rid of a lot of bad behaviour? Let people go home and sleep.”

Pompeo, who has played lead character Dr Meredith Grey since the show’s first episode, is currently the highest-paid female actor on US television, earning more than $20m (£15m) a year.

Read more

Eels: ‘Both my songs of the year are by people in their 70s!’

Fundraiser for Borat 2 babysitter raises more than £30,000 in 48 hours

Bake Off dubbed ‘ignorant and racist’ over ‘Japanese week’