Ellen Kathleen Pompeo (born November 10, 1969) is an American actress, director, and producer. She is one of the highest paid television actresses, having signed a million annual contract with the American Broadcasting Company in late 2017. She was honored with the 2007 Special Achievement in Entertaining by the National Italian American Foundation for her contributions to the entertainment industry.
Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Pompeo moved to New York City, where she was discovered by a casting director who signed her for an advertisement campaign for L'Oreal. She made her screen debut with NBC's legal drama Law & Order and then guest-starred in other television shows, including the comedy Strangers with Candy, the medical drama Strong Medicine and Friends. Pompeo made her feature film debut in 1999 with the romantic comedy Coming Soon, and went on to play minor roles in films like In the Weeds and Mambo Café but found little success initially. A turning point came in her career in 2002, when she gained wide recognition for her starring role in Brad Silberling's drama Moonlight Mile.
Pompeo was then cast in ABC's popular medical drama Grey's Anatomy, and garnered worldwide recognition for her portrayal of the title character Dr. Meredith Grey. The role on the long running series earned her a Golden Globe nomination and the Screen Actors Guild Award. The character became widely popular, making Pompeo one of the most renowned television actresses. In 2015, Pompeo was ranked fourth in the list of highest paid TV actresses by Forbes, with earnings of .5 million, a spot that she held on to the following year with earnings of .5 million. She became the highest paid television actor in a drama series with her 2018 contract earning her million annually.
Pompeo's other notable film roles include the comedy Old School (2003), the superhero film Daredevil (2003), the caper film Art Heist (2004), and the comedy drama Life of the Party (2005). In addition to her acting career, she has directed two episodes for Grey's Anatomy and also founded a production company Calamity Jane. Pompeo married producer Chris Ivery in 2007 and the couple have three children together.
Ellen Kathleen Pompeo was born in Everett, Massachusetts, on November 10, 1969, the daughter of Joseph E. Pompeo and Kathleen B. Pompeo (née O'Keefe). Her father was of Italian, English, and Irish descent, while her mother was of Irish ancestry. She was raised as a Catholic. Her mother died of a painkiller overdose when Ellen was five, and her father remarried soon after; he died on September 1, 2012. In 2006, Pompeo told Allure "I think having my mother die at such a very young age – when she was 33 – I appreciate life so much." She has five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. She was nicknamed "the pencil", and "stracciatella" (Italian Ice Cream flavour).Pompeo worked as a barmaid in Miami when she started dating fashion photographer Andrew Rosenthal. Together, they moved to New York City in 1995 where she was approached by a casting director to appear in various adverts for Citibank and L'Oreal.
Debut and further roles (1995–2004)
Pompeo’s early work included adverts and small independent films. She made her television debut in 1996 by guest-starring in the NBC legal police drama, Law & Order. She made her feature film debut in Coming Soon (1999), playing a small part. She made her second appearance in Law & Order in 2000, and then guest-starred on Strangers with Candy, Strong Medicine and Friends.Pompeo then moved to Los Angeles in 2001. She participated in the movie Mambo Café with Thalía.
In 2002, Pompeo was selected by director Brad Silberling for a lead role in his film Moonlight Mile, playing Jake Gyllenhaal's character's sympathetic love interest. Jeff Vice of Deseret News while praising the cast made note of her "extremely appealing" performance. Her performance was also considered worthy of an Academy Award by several critics. Also in 2002, Pompeo appeared in the biographical crime drama film Catch Me If You Can and in 2003, she appeared in Old School as Luke Wilson's love interest. She portrayed Jim Carrey's ex-girlfriend, Naomi, in the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Although her scenes were cut from that film, she felt grateful that director Michel Gondry selected her for his film. She played the role of Karen Page, in the 2003, Mark Steven Johnson Marvel Entertainment film Daredevil, based on the Marvel Comics character.
Grey's Anatomy and other works (2005–present)
Pompeo landed her first major role in 2005 on the ABC medical drama series Grey's Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes. She plays the title character and series' protagonist, Meredith Grey, a surgical intern at a prestigious hospital. In 2011, she was named the ninth highest paid TV actress, by Forbes, earning million.Grey's Anatomy was a breakout hit in 2005, and was well received by television critics. At the time of the show's inception, Pompeo received positive feedback for her performance, with Newsday's Diane Werts writing, "star Ellen Pompeo's newly minted Dr. Grey conveys such substance that you simply can't stop watching."
Pompeo signed a new contract for Grey's Anatomy in 2011 that increased her salary to US0,000 per episode, and renewed the contract for two more seasons in 2012. She was named the eighth highest paid TV actress in 2012, earning million. She extended her contract for two more years, which would have her involved with the show until its 12th season. As of 2013, she earns 0,000 per episode plus millions from syndication. She was ranked fourth in the list of highest paid television actresses again in 2015, in the Forbes list, with the earnings of .5 million.Pompeo's contract with the company expired again at the end of the twelfth season along with the other original cast members, and she signed a new one with increased pay cheque. She held on the fourth spot in Forbes' list in 2016, bringing in million, a 32% increase in the earnings from 2015.Pompeo at the premiere of 27 Dresses in 2008
With the increasing popularity of the show, Pompeo garnered worldwide reputation among television viewers, and her performance has garnered her five People's Choice Award nominations, with three wins. At the 37th People's Choice Awards, she was nominated against Dempsey and Oh in the Favorite TV Doctor category, and the following year, she garnered a nomination in the Favorite TV Drama Actress category, an award that she has won thrice at the 39th, 41st and the 42nd People's Choice Awards.Pompeo has been nominated for several other awards for her performances in the show. She and the Grey's Anatomy cast won Best Ensemble in a Television Series at the 2006 Satellite Awards. During the following year's ceremony, she was named Best Actress in a Television Drama Series. She was among the Grey's Anatomy cast members awarded the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series accolade at the 13th Screen Actors Guild Awards, and received nominations in the same category in 2006 and 2008.Pompeo received a Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Series nomination at the 64th Golden Globe Awards – the program won Best Drama Series at the same ceremony. In 2007, Pompeo and the female cast and crew of Grey's Anatomy received the Women in Film Lucy Award, which honors those "whose work in television has positively influenced attitudes toward women."
In 2007, Pompeo was honored by the National Italian American Foundation for her achievement in entertainment at a black-tie gala in Washington, D.C. In the same year, show-business awards reporter Tom O'Neil commented that Pompeo was overdue for an Emmy Award nomination for her role in Grey's Anatomy. The view was echoed by later critcs, including Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times who suggested that Pompeo, "who has worked very hard and against all narrative odds to make Meredith Grey an interesting character at last" should have received a nomination at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. During the twelfth season of the show Western Gazette's Alex Hawnkings gave Pompeo the credit for carrying the show and re-ittirated it was time for her to finally win an Emmy Award." Readers of O'Neil's awards website, The Envelope, included Pompeo in their 2009 nominations for Best Drama Actress in the site's Gold Derby TV Awards.
On October 27, 2011, Deadline Hollywood reported that Pompeo had launched her own production company called Calamity Jane which sold its first project to ABC, an untitled show about female agents on the Secretary of State's security detailPompeo appeared in the music video of Bad Blood, a song from the fifth studio album 1989 (2014) of her close friend American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. The music video was directed by Joseph Kahn, and filmed in Los Angeles on April 12, 2015, but is set in London. The music video premiered on May 17, 2015, at the start of the Billboard Music Awards. Each actor chose their character's name. Swift plays Catastrophe who is training for her revenge against a close friend Arsyn, played by Selena Gomez. The other characters in the video are shown in succession, some in training with Catastrophe and Pompeo plays one of them named Luna.
Pompeo has expressed her lack of interest in acting after Grey's Anatomy ends its run. In an September 2011 interview, she said, "I definitely feel myself transitioning. I don't find acting terribly empowering." Since then, Pompeo has been involved in other projects as a producer and had also made her directorial debut with a Grey's Anatomy episode, from the thirteenth season. On August 2014, it was announced that Pompeo was developing two dramas with ABC Studios - adaptation of Rachel Carey’s 2013 novel Debt for ABC Family, and an untitled female police drama for ABC.Pompeo is also involved with a Spanish thriller Motivos Personales with the London-based company, New Media Vision.
Pompeo renewed her contract for Grey's Anatomy in January 2018, agreeing for two more seasons; she became the highest paid actress in a television drama series, earning more than million a year with the new deal. She receives a sum of 5,000 per episode under her new contract and was promoted to the rank of producer for the series, which was estimated to earn her a separate million to million annually. She was also listed as co-producer for the Grey's Anatomy spinoff titled "Station 19" and received office space for her production company, Calamity Jane at Walt Disney Studios. She wrote a piece on the issue of gender pay gap and her new contract with ABC, which was featured as the cover story for the January 2018 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
Personal life and off-screen work
Pompeo met Chris Ivery in a Los Angeles grocery store in 2003. They began dating and got married in 2007, with the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg as the legal witness to the ceremony. In 2009, Pompeo gave birth to her first child, daughter Stella. In 2014, she welcomed daughter Sienna with the help of a surrogate mother. On December 29, 2016 it was announced that they had welcomed their third child, a boy named Eli Christopher.
Pompeo suffers from several allergies and asthma. She owns two toy poodles with her husband because they don't shed: "I have asthma, so those are the only kinds of dogs I can have."Pompeo follows a healthy lifestyle, meditates twice a day for 20 minutes each, and does so inside her trailer in between takes as well.Pompeo heavily criticised media reports suggesting that she suffered from an eating disorder, calling the media irresponsible for promoting such rumours. In a 2007 issue of Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, she said that she was worried about the young girls who look up to her: "I don’t want them to think I starve myself or don’t eat, and that to be like me that’s what they have to do." In 2018, she told People that she and her family had adopted a vegan diet.
Pompeo along with Shonda Rhimes, and the leads of Rhimes' ABC Thursday line-up shows Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Kerry Washington and Viola Davis, appeared in an ad campaign for the 2016 US election supporting Hillary Clinton, comparing her to the protagonists of those series. In the video, the actresses note that Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating and Meredith Grey are “brilliant” and “complex” women who fight for justice and give voice to the voiceless. Rhimes, Davis, Pompeo, and Washington each take turns speaking as they praise the presidential candidate and conclude: "Our characters are on television; the real world has Hillary Clinton." Clinton responded to the video with a tweet saying, “Talk about a power lineup. Thank you for being on this team!"
FilmYear Title Role Notes 1995 Do You Have the Time Woman Short film 1999 8 ½ x 11 Human Resources Woman 1999 Coming Soon Upset Girl 2000 Eventual Wife Beth Short film 2000 In the Weeds Martha 2000 Mambo Café Stacy 2002 Moonlight Mile Bertie Knox 2002 Catch Me If You Can Marci 2003 Old School Nicole 2003 Daredevil Karen Page 2003 Undermind Flynn 2004 Nobody's Perfect Veronica Short film 2004 Art Heist Sandra Walker 2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Naomi Scenes deleted 2005 Life of the Party Phoebe Elgin
TelevisionYear Title Role Notes 1996–00 Law & Order Jenna Weber / Laura Kendrick Episodes: "Savior" and "Fools for Love" 1999 Strangers with Candy Lizzie Abrams Episode: "Feather in the Storm" 2000 Get Real Nina Adler Episode: "History Lessons" 2001 The Job Sue Episode: "Anger" 2001 Strong Medicine Quincy Dunne Episode: "Wednesday Night Fever" 2004 Friends Missy Goldberg Episode: "The One Where the Stripper Cries" 2005–present Grey's Anatomy Dr. Meredith Grey 315 episodes
Lead role 2015 Repeat After Me Herself Episode 8 2017 Doc McStuffins Willow (voice) Episode: "Toy Hospital: Camille Gets Over the Hump/Willow's Wonky Whiskers" 2018 Station 19 Dr. Meredith Grey Episode: "Stuck"
As producerYear Title Role Notes 2017–present Grey's Anatomy Producer 10 episodes; Season 14 2018–present Station 19 Co-executive producer 3 episodes; Season 1
Awards and nominations
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