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Ellen Pompeo talks 'out-of-control' off-screen drama on 'Grey's Anatomy' set

Oct. 7, 2013 at 2:28 PM ET

Image: Ellen Pompeo as Dr. Meredith Grey on "Grey's Anatomy."
Bob D'Amico / ABC
"Hurt feelings" and "huge paychecks" were behind some of the biggest off-screen drama, according to "Grey's Anatomy" star Ellen Pompeo.

Over the course of 10 seasons and 200 episodes, the halls of Seattle Grace (turned Seattle Grace Mercy West, turned Grey Sloan Memorial, etc.) have teemed with big drama. But as faithful fans of the show know, no amount of on-screen crashes, shooters or massive power-zapping storms can really compete with the off-screen drama "Grey's Anatomy" has spawned over the years.

Back in season three, Isaiah Washington was accused of using a homophobic slur in reference to then-fellow cast member T.R. Knight. First he denied it (and used it again), then he apologized for it and eventually, the network bigwigs decided not to renew his contract for season four.

That preceded other exits. Knight left the show after season five, due to what he called a "breakdown in communication" with executive producer Shonda Rimes. And actress Katherine Heigl hung up her scrubs in season six, after withdrawing her name from Emmy consideration the previous season and complaining about the writing on the show.

Now star Ellen Pompeo, who's remained on the show while others have come and gone, has opened up about what she believes was behind all the behind-the-scenes shakeups.

"Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control," Pompeo explained in an interview with the New York Post. “The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me."

And that wasn't always easy for her to do.

"When Katie left, it was tough," she told the Post. "You could understand why she wanted to go — when you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26. But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off."

Heigl's choice was never one that Pompeo considered for herself. Since joining the cast of "Grey's" when the drama began in 2005, she hasn't strayed to work on films or other small-screen projects, and she doesn't plan to start now.

“Actors always think the grass is greener somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “I have an amazing life. I have a house five minutes from the studio, I have a house in the Hamptons, a house in Malibu, a beautiful daughter whom I see every night, and it’s all because I didn’t leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”

See what on-screen the show holds next for the woman behind Meredith Grey when the 200th episode of "Grey's Anatomy" airs Thursday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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