Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on when they knew 'Grey's Anatomy' was a phenomenon

Yahoo Entertainment caught up with Grey's Anatomy's Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey at Disney's D23 expo 2022. Pompeo and Dempsey looked back at the hit ABC series and revealed once they knew it was a phenomenon. Pompeo also discussed why she has a limited role this season.

Video transcript

- Dr. Shepherd, we should pretend it never happened.

- What never happened? You sleeping with me last night, or you throwing me out this morning? Because both are fond memories I like to hold on to.

- No, there will be no memories.

KEVIN POLOWY: If you can think back to the earliest days to when this show first launched, what were your expectations then? I can't imagine you could believe it would be 15, 16, 17, all these seasons, all these years later.

ELLEN POMPEO: So Kevin, one of my mantras that I tell myself, that I tell my children is manage your expectations. I always manage my expectations. I never expect a lot, and then you're pleasantly surprised. So I don't think I was expecting a lot. I don't think anybody was. They changed the name a couple of times. They didn't really give us an air date, so no one really ever knows, especially with TV, it's so hard. I mean, now, it's even harder, but back then, it was completely different because we didn't have streaming. But anyway, you know, no expectations.

KEVIN POLOWY: Was there a moment where you felt it was becoming this phenomenon?

ELLEN POMPEO: Yeah, after the first day that it aired, it was pretty obvious.

KEVIN POLOWY: Really? That soon?

ELLEN POMPEO: Yeah, yeah, it was pretty crazy.

PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah, I think any kind of success, there's a certain amount of magic to it. It's hard to duplicate. And we were a midseason replacement, so we weren't sure if it was even going to get on the air. We did the entire first season not knowing. And then we were told OK, we like it, but we're not sure about it. We're going to release it mid-season. And then when it came out, it started to slowly build over that first season. So I remember I was actually at Indy 500, and everything had changed, not overnight, but it felt like it was overnight.

KEVIN POLOWY: That was when you felt it becoming basically a phenomenon?

PATRICK DEMPSEY: You could feel the momentum, and then things changed, yes.

KEVIN POLOWY: Are you keeping up with it since leaving the show? Are you DVR-ing it? Are you trying to--



KEVIN POLOWY: I love the honesty so, so much. I mean, you did return, so there's always the possibility there might be another--

PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah, you never know. You never know.

KEVIN POLOWY: And lastly, I know you're going to take a more limited role this season.


KEVIN POLOWY: Can you tell us how you arrived at that decision? Did you consider leaving altogether and you kind of met in the middle with them? How did you get here?

ELLEN POMPEO: Yeah, I think that the fans love the show. The company loves the show, and I always want to make everybody happy. I don't know if that makes me a people pleaser, and I need therapy. I don't know what it means, but anyway, it's a great-- listen, the show inspires people to go into the medical field. It inspires young people to want to be healers and doctors. It's an amazing platform, and I really love it. But there's only so much of I can do after 19 seasons. It's a lot.

And I've given the fans and the show so much of my heart and passion and energy, and if I don't have that same level 19 seasons later, I don't deserve to be in every single episode. The fans deserve people who are super excited and happy to be there, and these new kids that we have coming in are very excited and happy to be there. And I'm still going to come in and out, and hopefully, everyone will check me out on Hulu. I'm going to do a limited series for the company for Hulu. And it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I did want to step away, and they were gracious enough to hear me. And then they were also more gracious than that to then offer me another role.