Okay, I love Grey’s Anatomy (that’s not a secret). It’s refreshing to see a show with such strong women, and I like Shonda Rhimes aversion to the word “diversity” when describing the show’s cast — she has said before that they’re simply aiming to make a show that mirrors the real world, and that’s an important and admirable cause. I have also seen myself in many of the characters; though the specifics of the plot lines are not always things I can identify with, I get the nuances of the emotions, especially when it comes to Meredith. She’s been through so much, and I love that they’ve allowed her character to change over the seasons — static people don’t exist in real life, and they shouldn’t exist on the small screen, either. It’s because of my love for Meredith, through the good times and bad, that I also have grown to love Ellen Pompeo (I realize they’re different people, but I follow Ellen on social media and have read/watched previous interviews with her — by all accounts, she’s lovely).
So imagine my excitement when, by some turn of fate, Ellen Pompeo herself read my article about loving Grey’s Anatomy and followed me on Twitter. She reached out to thank me for the piece, and we had a brief exchange.
Feeling emboldened by her tweets, I reached out for an interview, and she said yes! I had my people get in touch with her people (okay, I don’t have people) to set things up, and our conversation was wonderful. Here’s what we talked about:
On fans, inspiration, and social media
HelloGiggles (HG): So, let’s talk first about finding inspiration, because that’s one of the things you mentioned in our Twitter interaction and I’m so interested to hear more about your perspective on how you stay inspired when things get hard.
Ellen Pompeo (EP): It’s crazy because at first social media seemed like this scary idea, especially because actors like their privacy, but the fans are so wonderful! You can be on social media and hear peoples’ stories, and people can tell you exactly how the show has helped them through whatever they’re going through — that’s really an inspiration to know that you’re truly touching people and helping them. That really pushes me, and helps me keep going.
HG: Yeah, that’s a huge thing. As a writer, on a smaller scale, any time someone tweets at me about an article or says something I wrote helped them, it helps me keep opening up about mental health issues or what have you.
EP: Well, the thing that’s interesting about social media is, there’s no such thing as a smaller scale! You write an article and you have no idea or control over how many people that article will touch, so in this new world of social media you can’t really say it’s a small scale. It’s really brilliant in that way!
On Grey’s Anatomy, relating to Meredith, and getting older
HG: I want to switch gears a little and talk about Grey’s. It’s been on for 12 seasons now, and your life has obviously changed over that time period, as well as Meredith’s. How do you relate to her, and how do you find yourself different from the character?
EP: Well, it’s a drama, and there’s a lot of fiction involved in her choices and a lot of her choices are sort of all over the place. However, I think that how we’re the same is the level of compassion and understanding that we both try to have in our interactions with people — that’s our most similar quality.
HG: I always wonder about when people play the same character for a long amount of time, whether they start to merge with that character or start to resent the character — what happens there, and how that ties into their daily life.
EP: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen people resent their character, for sure. But I think as you get older — for me, anyway — I’m not so precious about acting. I’m very practical about my life, and I don’t take acting too seriously. Maybe when we’re younger, like in our early 20s, we tend to make things bigger than they are. But as we get older and when you do things like have kids, things that you used to think were problems are no longer problems — your priorities change and you don’t take smaller things as seriously.
HG: I’ve noticed that too — I’m 28, so kind of in the middle of that stage where I’m starting to feel more grown up and getting more responsibilities. I just started my career, I have two dogs to take care of, and I don’t have kids but I am starting to prioritize more. The things that I’m starting to care about are not the things I cared about when I was, say, 22.
EP: Everyone talks about getting older as it’s such a negative thing. No one really talks about the positive side of getting older, which is the wisdom that you get and the confidence that you get with yourself as you age, which is something really good that everyone should look forward to.
On positivity, self-care, and happiness
HG: On that note, what advice would you have for young women who are in that phase and just getting started in any career?
EP: I think I’d say, just make your mind your friend. You know, positivity, and thinking about things in a positive nature goes so much further than thinking about things in a negative way.
HG: I still struggle with that a lot. It’s one of those things that’s so important and sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done.
EP: You’re so right about that, it’s definitely easier said than done. You know, my mother died when I was small so I sort of grew up thinking that life was this tragedy. So for me, it was really difficult to do, and I think having a child sort of helped me with that — it helped mend a piece of my broken heart and helped me move forward in a positive way. I’m a Scorpio, I’m super intense and dark, and being positive is something I’ve had to learn to do. I mean, there are studies that show that people who are optimistic live longer and are more successful. Positive people think, “Of course I can do that! Why wouldn’t I do that?” whereas negative people think, “I could never do that,” and if you go into things thinking that way, you probably won’t make it happen. Positive attitudes just make all the difference. It’s not easy to do, but it’s so necessary to try.
HG: Okay, so staying positive is one way you take care of yourself. What are some of your other methods of self-care, and how do you make sure you’re healthy even when you’re super busy?
EP: I think diet is everything, and there’s something to be said about long term vitamin and mineral deficiency. I think the use of GMOs needs to go no matter what. I think that eating as healthy as you can definitely helps, and eating organic whenever possible — I know it’s expensive but it’s important to me, because so many of the fruits and vegetables they’re growing are bionic almost, because they’ll grow no matter what and they’re nutrient deficient. I think that food and sleep and happiness are big components.
HG: What makes you the most happy?
EP: My relationships and love. My kids make me the most happy, and my husband.
On the future, and the importance of living in the moment
HG: I’ve read that you’re not going to continue acting after Grey’s ends. What’s next for you?
EP: Well, I said that one day, and then 10 minutes later I changed my mind. You know, who knows! I try to live in the present moment — true to that, that’s what I was feeling in the present moment. Sometimes, in the middle of the season when I’m feeling so exhausted, that’s truly what I feel. I can’t imagine wanting to act anymore, or wanting to be around actors, or wanting to hear my own voice for one more minute. But I have a production company and we produce, and I decorate houses and have a real estate hobby and that makes me happy, and I love being with my kids and that makes me happy, as well — really, my goal for the future is just to be as happy as possible.
HG: That’s great, being flexible with yourself is so important.
EP: Yeah, I definitely don’t set a lot of goals for myself, which I mean — I guess goals are important, but there’s something to be said for living in the moment, too. If you’re too focused on what you’re doing next, you miss what you’re doing right now! And you miss being happy in the now if when you’re always worried about things like what you’re doing next, what can I do better, how can I improve. I don’t want to miss even a little piece of right now; I want to be able to enjoy this moment.
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. <3