The Meredith Grey depicter also talks about Katherine Heigl's dramatic departure from the ABC medical series, admitting, 'When Katie left, it was tough.'
In an interview to mark "Grey's Anatomy" 200th episode, Ellen Pompeo opens up about some behind-the-scenes dramas on the show. While her character Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey's Derek "McDreamy" Shepard seem to be destined to be with each other since the first episode and have since become an iconic on-screen couple, the pairing could have been different.
"You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend. Shonda [Rhimes - series creator] really wanted to put a black man in the mix," Pompeo tells New York Post. She objected to the idea, arguing, "I didn't think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn't want him. It was too close to home." The actress is married to African-American music producer. Chris Ivery in real life.
"I said I wanted that Dempsey kid. I think that once Isaiah did not get the role it backfired," she adds. Pairing Pompeo with Dempsey turned out to be a right decision since Washington was later fired after three seasons for making derogatory gay slur on set and dropping the F-bomb backstage at the 2007 Golden Globe Awards, where "Grey's" won best drama series.
Another headline-grabbing "Grey's" exit was when Katherine Heigl departed the show. Talking about it for the first time, Pompeo shares her opinion on what happened at the time. "Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control," she says.
"When Katie left, it was tough," the 43-year-old actress continues. "You could understand why she wanted to go - when you're offered $12 million a movie and you're only 26. But Katie's problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off."
Despite the dramas, Pompeo managed to focus on her job. "The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me," she reveals.
She additionally claims that she knew she would stay for a long time on the Shonda Rhimes-created drama series. "Actors always think the grass is greener somewhere else. I didn't want to do that," she claims. "I have an amazing life. I have a house five minutes from the studio, I have a house in the Hamptons, a house in Malibu, a beautiful daughter whom I see every night, and it's all because I didn't leave 'Grey's Anatomy'."
Dempsey, on the other hand, has "thought about leaving." He admits, "It's always at the end of the season, when you are tired of having no control over your schedule,when you can't see the forest for the trees, to know how fortunate you are." Nevertheless, he's back for the 10th season that just premiered in late September.
Instead, it's Sandra Oh, another of the remaining original cast members, who plans to leave the show this season. Kevin McKidd, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt, the former husband of Oh's Dr. Cristina Yang, sees it as both a curse and a blessing. "I am really sad but it could be interesting and exciting to discover things about Owen apart from Christina," he explains.
The 200th episode of "Grey's" is slated to air next Thursday, October 17, on ABC.