‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Ellen Pompeo Once Cut Shonda Rhimes Off While She Was Speaking About Racism: Book

  • A new book reveals some new details about an interview that Ellen Pompeo did in 2015.
  • Pompeo cut Shonda Rhimes off while she was speaking about racism in Hollywood.
  • At one point, Pompeo left the room in tears. The reporter called her behavior “very disruptive.” 

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo once tearfully walked out of an interview after cutting Shonda Rhimes off while she was speaking about racism in Hollywood.

The uncomfortable 2015 interview was detailed in a new, unauthorized oral history of the veteran medical drama, called “How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy” by Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large, Lynette Rice.

In the book, journalist Melissa Maerz, a former writer at Entertainment Weekly, recalled the awkward interview with the former faces of ABC’s “TGIT” lineup: Pompeo, “Scandal” star Kerry Washington, “How to Get Away with Murder” lead Viola Davis, and the shows’ creator Rhimes. 

Maerz asked Rhimes to comment on a New York Times piece by Alessandra Stanley in which Davis was called “less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned actresses, who are Black. The journalist asked: After Stanley received backlash for the story, did “anything positive … come out of that?”

Rhimes was mid-sentence when Pompeo cut her off and said, “If any good comes out of ignorance, then I’ll take the ignorance,” causing Davis to sigh. Pompeo then left the room after her “eyes welled up with tears.” 

Maerz called Pompeo’s comment “a total record-scratch moment.”

Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Ellen Pompeo

Actresses Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, and Ellen Pompeo attend the TGIT Premiere event at Palihouse on September 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

“Was she really saying that if any good came out of racism, then racism was okay with her?” Maerz asked rhetorically. “And why was Pompeo even responding to a question that had nothing to do with her or her show?”

 “If I had to guess, I’d say that Ellen immediately regretted what she said and didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself by crying in front of the others,” Maerz added.

Insider reached out to reps for Pompeo, Rhimes and Davis, but didn’t immediately hear back.

After Pompeo exited the interview back in 2015, Davis goes on to answer Maerz’s question, saying, “Colorism and racism in this country are so powerful that the Jim Crow laws are gone, but what’s left is a mindset.”

Ellen Pompeo Family

John Sciulli/Getty

In the past, however, Pompeo has been outspoken about racism and hasn’t been afraid to talk about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. It’s a personal issue for the actress who has three biracial children with her husband, Chris Ivery.

“I’m not afraid to talk about race,” Pompeo said during a 2018 episode of “Red Table Talk.” “A lot of people get nervous when you bring it up, and I understand why they do. At the same time, these are important conversations to have. And if you’re afraid to talk about them, then that’s a problem.”

“How to Save a Life” gives fans never-before-heard details about the most controversial moments in “Grey’s Anatomy’s” 16-year history. The show’s most troubling cast exits and most iconic episodes are also covered in depth. 


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