How Did Ellen Pompeo Rewrite The ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Ending?

After 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, there’s no shortage of people who are constantly floored at the fact that the show is still on the air. Not only is it still on, but it also has been renewed for both a sixteenth and seventeenth season. It seems that Grey’s isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But, the future of the show wasn’t always so secure. In fact, the network was dangerously close to pulling the plug after the show’s 11th season. Recently, Ellen Pompeo revealed how she believes she stopped that from happening.

Ellen Pompeo
Ellen Pompeo | Tony Rivetti/ABC via Getty Images ELLEN POMPEO

Patrick Dempsey

Longtime fans of Grey’s Anatomy know how heartbroken they were when Derek Shepard aka McDreamy (portrayed by Patrick Dempsey) died in a tragic car accident. Husband to Dr. Meredith Grey (portrayed by Pompeo), he had been a crucial part of the series up until that point. But, as tragic as his death was for fans, Dempsey’s decision to leave the series put the show in serious jeopardy. ABC was unsure if the series could stay afloat without a male lead, and considered bringing the whole show to an end. That’s when Pompeo stepped up to the plate to save not just her job, but the entire show.

“Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission” the actress admitted in a recent interview. But convincing the network that the show must and could go on without Dempsey was just one of Pompeo’s many challenges.

Toxic environment

The 49-year-old also confessed that she had a very toxic environment to contend with. Pompeo admits that the first ten years of the show were extraordinarily difficult and were detrimental to her well-being. In fact, things got so bad that there were several moments that she wanted to quit the show altogether. “The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment. But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family” Pompeo said candidly.

Pompeo teamed up with executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, to turn things around. She made it her mission to create an atmosphere where she could be happy and do the work that would earn her money to take care of her children. “Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That’s what’s kept me.” the actress reflected on her decision to stay.


“I now have three kids. And we turned the culture around. I’ve hit some marks that have made me feel accomplished in a different way. Shonda Rhimes has been amazing. She lets us be mothers. I don’t have to travel. I don’t have to go anywhere.” Pompeo continued.

No creativity

But whilst the actress has achieved her off-screen goal about creating a better environment for herself and her coworkers, she admits that she struggles to find that same sense of accomplishment within her onscreen role. She even believes that despite her long tenure on the show, she hasn’t felt the creative challenge she craves. In a super candid statement, the actress says, “I haven’t been challenged creatively at all. Every once in a while we do an amazing storyline. But for the last five years, I’ve had other milestones that we were trying to achieve behind the camera.”