Ellen Pompeo has been a staple of mega-hit Grey’s Anatomy for nearly two decades. But even she feels the heat when slipping Grey’s Anatomy secrets to the show’s massive audience. One gaff Pompeo was (lightly) chastised for? Admitting it wasn’t actually her in the hospital bed when her character, Meredith Grey, slipped into a coma in season 17. Read on for more surprising production secrets from one of TV’s biggest shows.
Ellen Pompeo revealed the truth behind her coma scenes
As she told Jimmy Kimmel, Pompeo had a bit of a weird experience preparing for Meredith’s dark turn. Meredith was in bad shape after contracting coronavirus (COVID-19), ultimately leading the titular character to the brink of death.
For Pompeo, Meredith’s traumatic turn meant a new first in her acting career. Instead of playing her unconscious character in a coma, producers fitted Pompeo for a latex doll to act as her substitute.
“I actually got in big trouble,” she said. “I tweeted about the doll.” Pompeo continued, noting the powers-that-be told her, “you’re ruining the illusion for the audience.”
Why did the star, who is also an executive producer on the series, tell her secret to Grey’s Anatomy fans? Pompeo notes, “the doll kept looking worse and worse” as time went on. And she didn’t want people to think it was really her. “I’m an actor — my ego!” she laughed.
Another behind-the-scenes ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ secret
Pompeo spilled other Grey’s Anatomy behind-the-scenes secrets in the past. On her podcast, Tell Me with Ellen Pompeo, the star admitted she engaged in a spat with legendary actor Denzel Washington, who directed a season 12 episode of the show.
After breaking from the script, Washington confronted Pompeo. Her response? “Listen, motherf—–, this is my show. This is my set.” Pompeo told former co-star Patrick Dempsey she felt Washington thought of Grey’s Anatomy as “a good exercise to just come in and direct something quick.”
The ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ set gets intense
There have been plenty of other on-set secrets as well, including a story about Dempsey getting in a physical fight with co-star Isaiah Washington. According to a People article detailing Lynette Rice’s book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, Washington even pushed Dempsey up against a wall in front of other cast members. Though Washington’s usage of a homophobic slur on set leaked, leading to his firing, the physical altercation between Washington and Dempsey didn’t come out for years.
One of the other infamous production secrets? The materials used for shooting surgery scenes sometimes disgust the actors. According to Sarah Drew, they used cow organs—among other things—to provide visual realism, which was gross enough to make some of the crew members gag.