Ellen Pompeo on equal pay, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ cast exits

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo has been vocal about her own fight for pay equality — so it comes as little surprise that she would contest any notion that her own raise had an impact on the recent exit of fellow cast members.

The “Grey’s Anatomy” star recently signed a new deal making her the highest paid actress on a television drama at $20 million a season — but when the show debuted, co-star Patrick Dempsey was getting a larger salary, even though she played the title role.

So when it was recently announced that stars Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew would be leaving “Grey’s Anatomy” after the current season, some pointed the finger at Pompeo’s payday.

Pompeo refuted those rumors during her appearance on “Ellen,” telling host Ellen DeGeneres that “it’s absolutely not true.”

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Ellen Pompeo through the years
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Ellen Pompeo through the years
Ellen Pompeo during 'Catch Me If You Can' Los Angeles Premiere at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during 2002 Toronto Film Festival - Motorola 'Moonlight Mile' Party at Power Plant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
Actress Ellen Pompeo stars in the fall movie 'Moonlight Mile' with Jake Guylenhall, Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon. Here she is photographed in Wattles Garden Park. 08/23/2002 (Photo by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Ellen Pompeo (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during DreamWorks Premiere of Old School - Arrivals at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Ellen Pompeo at the The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during 'Collateral' Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during Prada Opens Beverly Hills Epicenter - Arrivals at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals at The Shrine in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo during 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room at The Shrine in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Ellen Pompeo (Photo by Gail Oskin/WireImage for PMK/HBH)
Ellen Pompeo wearing Gucci 2562S Sunglasses (Photo by Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during 'Chanel' Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Arrivals at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during Opening of the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum at Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Ellen Pompeo at the Social Hollywood in Hollywood, California (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Ellen Pompeo during 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 06: Actress Ellen Pompeo arrives at the Madonna and Gucci Host 'A Night to Benefit Raising Malawi and UNICEF' at the United Nations on February 6, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09: Actress Ellen Pompeo arrives for the 34th Annual People's Choice Awards - Arrivals held at Nokia Theater at L.A. Live on January 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
Actress Ellen Pompeo attends the grand opening of Marquee Nightclub at Marquee Nightclub In The Cosmopolitan on December 30, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)' - Miranda continues to deal with the aftermath of Ben's reckless decisions and forms an advisory committee to recommend proper disciplinary action against him. Meanwhile, April and Jackson try to put their differences aside for the sake of their baby, and Arizona makes a decision that could affect her relationship with Callie forever, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, APRIL 14 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Mitch Haaseth/ABC via via Getty Images)ELLEN POMPEO
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'The End is the Beginning is the End' - Meredith, Derek, Cristina and Arizona receive big news regarding the plane crash lawsuit, Richard avoids Catherine's romantic advances and Jackson takes on one of Mark Sloane's old patients. Meanwhile, Derek begins recovery on his hand, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, JANUARY 17 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images) ELLEN POMPEO, SARAH DREW, SANDRA OH
PACIFIC PALISADES, CA - OCTOBER 06: Ellen Pompeo arrives at the 3rd Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic held at Will Rogers State Historic Park on October 6, 2012 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 11: Actress Ellen Pompeo arrives at Rihanna's First Annual Diamond Ball at The Vineyard on December 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Ellen Pompeo attends a private dinner hosted by VOGUE to celebrate TOD'S Creative Director Alessandra Facchinetti on November 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for TOD'S)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Actress Ellen Pompeo attends the 'Welcome to the Age of Cool' event hosted by Philosophy and Ellen Pompeo on September 22, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: Actress Ellen Pompeo attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on December 3, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Actress Ellen Pompeo is seen outside 'Good Morning America' on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
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Pompeo, who also serves a producer on the show, explained that it was a matter of storytelling. “I’m not involved in these kind of decisions, however, there’s a few problems that you encounter doing a show for 14 seasons, and one of them is the writers have a really hard time creatively, thinking up new stories for all of these characters,” she told DeGeneres. “I think we have 16 regular cast members. And it’s always sad when we lose people for whatever reason, whether they want to go or they don’t want to go, it doesn’t make it any easier.”

Pompeo added, “You don’t have to pit us against each other, we are not enemies, we do lift each other up and support each other and we’re not victims. We’re very strong and capable of many, many things.”

During the interview, the actress said that since the news of her deal came out she’s gotten a tremendous response from fans. “I’ve really been so shocked and so moved about how many women run up to me and just want to share their stories, because I think as women sometimes we’re afraid to ask, we’re afraid to be vocal,” she said. “They like us quiet, as we’ve seen from this administration. I think it’s really important to encourage each other, encourage other women to stand up and be strong and know that we’ll be OK and we have each other’s backs.”

She added that although she’s fighting for women to get paid more, that doesn’t mean she wants men to be paid less. “Because you have means I don’t get is a very deep-rooted thing where racism and sexism is based,” she said, “so it’s important to talk about that and unearth that and simply dispel it and say that’s simply not true.”

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