We had the pleasure of interviewing Ellen Pompeo who stars as Meredith Grey in the hit medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy. With the season five DVD about to be released, we chat to the actress about her character’s ever-changing relationship with McDreamy. Pompeo also opens to reveal her thoughts on marriage, children and big, puffy, white wedding dresses…
Is it true you were the first actor cast for Grey’s Anatomy?
Ellen Pompeo: I’m not sure if I was the first person cast. However, I didn’t audition for the show. I was offered the show by the network, so I did have a different journey through casting than most people on the show.
How tough was it to find an actor for the role of Derek Shepherd?
Ellen Pompeo: It wasn’t tough, actually. The minute I read with Patrick Dempsey, I knew he was the one.
Looking back through the years, how did you find this chemistry – and did you imagine that you would come this far?
Ellen Pompeo: No, I don’t think I ever imagined it would go this far, but you learn to trust your instincts. We had great chemistry together from the start. I felt something for him. I felt chemistry; I felt an energy. I don’t know if I can explain it, but we’re lucky that it is what it is. I trusted it and the network saw it – and here we are today.
McDreamy and Meredith seem to be closer than ever in season five, although Derek has a hard time proposing…
Ellen Pompeo: Yes, I would agree with that. But we have two more seasons to film, so they have to drag it out a little.
What has been the fan reaction on the street about Derek and Meredith getting together again?
Ellen Pompeo: Los Angeles is a very insulated place. I don’t think anybody on the street here really cares about us at all. It’s not until we step outside of Los Angeles that people come up and talk to me about the show. I think people here are very used to seeing actors, so they don’t ask anything. However, I think fans want them to get married and move on.
Do you think Meredith would want a big white wedding or would she opt for a more low-key approach?
Ellen Pompeo: You’ll have to ask [Grey’s Anatomy creator] Shonda Rhimes that question. I can only guess, although I don’t think Meredith would want the big, white, puffy dress. I’m like Meredith in that way. I got married in black Yves St. Lauren outfit in the city hall in New York. In that way, I think Meredith is similar to me. She’s not the big, puffy, white dress kind of girl.
If McDreamy and Meredith ever get married, does that open up the door for babies on the show?
Ellen Pompeo: I don’t think that marriage necessarily has to be followed by children. Absolutely not. I think it’s an individual thing. I don’t think there’s any right way or wrong way to live your life. Nothing is set in stone. One thing that frustrates me in this world is the way that a lot of women feel like they need to do things by a certain age.
But isn’t everyone’s biological clock ticking?
Ellen Pompeo: I think women somehow have this weird stigma that they have to do everything by a certain age because they’re going to be too old otherwise. I think they’re being unfair to themselves and they’re underestimating themselves. You don’t need to be married by the time you’re 30. You don’t need to have children by the time you’re 30. If you want to do these things, then that’s great – but only if it’s for the right reasons.
Do any women break the mould when it comes to the ageist issue?
Ellen Pompeo: Sure. That’s why I love women like Madonna and Demi Moore. They are fantastic examples of women. Oprah is another one. They get better with age and they show women how you have a choice. Life can get better for you as you age. It doesn’t have to be downhill after 30. You know what? I celebrate these women because I think they’re so important for our culture, for our society and for our young girls.
How do you feel at this stage in your life?
Ellen Pompeo: I feel fantastic. I don’t think about my age because there’s nothing you can do about it. I see what it does to people, but I think to myself, ‘Why worry?’ It’s not productive to get hung up on a number. If you’re proud of your accomplishments and you’re happy with where you are, I don’t think it matters how old you are. I have a blessed life. I can’t complain about a thing.
Would you like to turn back the clock and be 20 years old again?
Ellen Pompeo: Age doesn’t affect me. I can’t say I want to turn back the clock and be 20 again because I’m happy with my life. I have so many blessings. There are advantages to being 20 and there are advantages to being 40. Like anything, there’s a good and a bad side to age – but I’m extremely lucky that I’m very happy.
You mention there’s a good side to everything. What was good about the fight between your character and Sandra Oh’s character when they stopped talking to each other?
Ellen Pompeo: Well, I guess it gave us both something different to play as actors and it gave the audience something different to see. I think we’re doing our job to keep people engaged in the show every time we do something fresh and new – and show a side to the characters that the audience hasn’t seen before. It’s wonderful to keep the material fresh, new and interesting.
Were those scenes fun to film?
Ellen Pompeo: For that reason, Sandra and I were both very excited about the storyline because we both want to do good work and we don’t want the show to be boring. In that way, I think that storyline served its purpose. Hopefully, they’ll be closer after the fight – but I really don’t know what’s going to happen because she has a different storyline at the moment. She’s going through something with Owen Hunt [played by Kevin McKidd], which is a fantastic storyline dealing with a soldier who has post-traumatic stress syndrome. I think that’s a very important issue to highlight in the show and I hope we do it responsibly and accurately. I hope some veterans seek solace from the storyline, so we’re being secretive about it for now. Cristina Yang is always going to be Cristina Yang. She’s always going to put up that wall, but you’ll have to watch for yourself to see what happens to her in season five.
It sounds like you’re impressed that Shonda decided to tackle the veteran issue…
Ellen Pompeo: Very much so. I think it’s a really important issue to highlight – and we have an opportunity and a social obligation to do this. We have this platform, so I hope that we really explore it well. I also hope that we can show the light and help veterans that have problems and are maybe afraid to ask for help – or don’t know where to go for help or are ashamed that they need help. They have such a tough exterior, but I hope the show helps them.
Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season is available now on DVD!
Interview By: Emma Loggins