‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey Had Drastically Different Views About the Home-Work Life Balance on Set

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey worked on Grey’s Anatomy since 2005, and the show is now in its 17th season. While Dempsey chose to leave to pursue other creative avenues after season 11, Pompeo remained. Dempsey described the 24 episode seasons of Grey’s Anatomy as “a very hard life,” however, Pompeo felt it gave her a “healthy home life.” Why is there a discrepancy in their viewpoints of the set?

'Grey's Anatomy' stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey | Scott Garfield/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum Patrick Dempsey felt the series took away from his family life

Dempsey left his role as Derek Shepherd after 11 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy. He cited his desire to pursue other creative endeavors and spend more time with his family as the cause of his departure. 

“I’m very grateful for Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey told People. “It’s given me the opportunity to do everything. But at the same time, there was a cost.” 

The 50-year-old actor was ready to leave the long hours on set and spend more time with his wife, Jillian, and their three children. 

“I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule,” he told the outlet. 

In another interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor added that he would not want to do a show again 24 episodes long. Dempsey might commit to something that is 10 or 12, but he felt the long seasons of Grey’s Anatomy were too much.

“It’s a very hard life,” he told the outlet. “It’s financially rewarding, but there comes a point where, how much is enough, really?”

Ellen Pompeo chose to remain on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ because of the ‘healthy home life’ it gave her

Pompeo’s feelings on remaining in the role of Meredith Grey for 17 seasons are very different from that of Dempsey. On the Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast on Aug. 3, Pompeo explained that she decided to continue with Grey’s Anatomy because of her family’s financial security.

“Personally, a healthy home life was more important than a career,” she said. “I made a decision to make money and not chase creative acting roles.”

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Instead of departing the series like so many of her costars, Pompeo fought for higher pay. She also told Variety that she is “constantly fighting for the show.”

“As a producer, I feel like I have permission to be able to do that,” Pompeo told the outlet. “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now. I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be.”

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey have different views because of how the show changed

After Dempsey left the show, Debbie Allen came on as an executive producer and was the breath of fresh air everyone was looking for. She fought for better hours, including Fridays off and shooting 12-hour maximum days. Allen advocated for no more than 10 hour days, and Pompeo says the producer “really brought in a spirit to the show that we had never seen.”

'Grey's Anatomy' Debbie Allen and Ellen Pompeo
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Debbie Allen and Ellen Pompeo | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

“Nobody should be working 16 hours a day, 10 months a year — nobody,” Pompeo told Variety. “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. 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 behavior? Let people go home and sleep.”

The years following Dempsey’s departure were vastly different than what he dealt with, so it’s no surprise that Pompeo has a more optimistic view. She feels that it supports her home life, now more than ever, thanks to Allen and her own advocacy for the show.