Ellen Pompeo Stayed on Grey’s Anatomy Because of Her Age

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Ellen Pompeo.
Ellen Pompeo.Photo: John Salangsang/BFA.com

In an interview with People, Ellen Pompeo revealed her decision to stay on Grey’s Anatomy instead of seeking other roles “was based solely on age.” How old is too old for women in Hollywood? “At 33, I was wise enough to know my clock was already ticking,” she said.

The 46-year-old actress said that after a “super-late start” in acting (her mid-20s), she knew it would be difficult to find other roles in her late 30s and early 40s. Last month, she extended her Grey’s contract and became one of TV’s most highly paid actresses.

“I thought, ‘Why would I leave something that is super successful and pays me great to search the landscape?’” she said. “I decided that I would stay on Grey’s and be grateful and try to ride it out for as long as I could. And I am very happy that I made the decision to stay. It’s only gotten better with time.”

Pompeo gracefully skewers stereotypes of aging in a subversive new beauty campaign for Philosophy, benefiting the Los Angeles nonprofit Aviva Family and Children’s Services: “Welcome to middle age,” says the video’s voiceover. “From here on it’s a steady decline into old age and cultural insignificance.” Pompeo then acts out social expectations of older women: Wind down your career, exercise less, wear more modest clothes, let yourself wither away.

That’s not quite her style: “[A]s uncomfortable as watching myself age is, I don’t think focusing on physical beauty is necessarily the best thing for your mind,” she told People. “The older you get, the more you realize life isn’t about your looks. Everyone ages, and it’s okay. As a woman you’re not over or on the decline after having children or after 40. It all just gets better!”