Ellen Pompeo calls out Netflix over residuals as actors share payment horror stories amid SAG-AFTRA strike

Ellen Pompeo has hit out at Netflix for not paying residual payments as Hollywood grinds to a halt amid the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Last week, the actors’ union voted to join the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines as they went on strike. It marks the first time the Screen Actors Guild has gone on strike in 43 years.

Alongside increased base pay, better working conditions and assurances their work won’t be replaced by AI, actors are striking over changes to the way residual payments work.

When a show airs on terrestrial TV, actors get paid additional residual payments every time their shows or forms are repeated on air.

Residuals played a large role in the stars of long-running terrestrial sitcoms like Friends or The Big Bang Theory becoming among the highest-paid TV stars of all time.

However, in the age of streaming, actors are rarely paid residuals, with the stars of a number of Netflix shows saying they were paid a pittance for their work on their respective shows.

On Tuesday (18 July), Grey’s Anatomy star Pompeo seemed to offer support to striking actors as she took aim at Netflix over their residual payment policies.

On Instagram Stories, the 53-year-old, who left Grey’s Anatomy in 2023 after 18 years on the medical drama, reshared a screenshot of a TikTok post by the streamer.

Pompeo’s post (Ellen Pompeo/Instagram)
Pompeo’s post (Ellen Pompeo/Instagram)

The original post showed a scene from season two of Grey’s Anatomy, where a young Meredith Grey (Pompeo) was stood with her arms crossed.

“Me when there’s a [bomb emoji] in the chest cavity,” Netflix’s caption wrote.

However, Pompeo added: “Also me when @netflix doesnt pay actors residuals holla let’s talk [sic].”

While Grey’s Anatomy is not a Netflix original show, having aired on ABC since 2005, US subscribers can stream the show on Netflix.

The Independent has contacted Netflix for comment.

Pompeo’s remarks come as actors and screenwriters have spoken out against their “appalling” experiences of being paid in Hollywood.

Among them are a number of cast members from the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, who spoke out on social media and in a piece for The New Yorker.

Actor Kimiko Glenn, who played Brooke Soso, claimed she only made $27.30 (£20) in 2020 from streaming residuals.

“I remember a lot of comments back when I posted that were like, ‘Guys guys guys, they got paid upfront,’” she said. “First of all,” she argued, “whether or not we got paid upfront, my t**s live on in perpetuity. I deserve to get paid for as many f***ing streams as that s*** gets.”

She went on to reveal that “people were still bartenders, people had their second jobs still”.

“They were f***ing famous as s***, like internationally famous – couldn’t go outside – but had to keep their second jobs because they couldn’t afford to not. We couldn’t afford cabs to set... you guys!” Glenn added.