Ellen Pompeo felt some pressure stepping behind the camera for the first time on her thirteen years on Grey’s Anatomy, but not the kind you would think. At a recent panel at Paleyfest, the actress talked about taking her turn in the director’s chair, the universal, emotional relevance that has kept Grey’s Anatomy running strong all these years, and the costar who mentored her through the daunting episode she directed.
You would think Pompeo would have felt some pressure being in charge of an episode for the first time, but that wasn’t the case. “I wasn’t really afraid of anything,” Pompeo said in regard to the technical aspects of directing. The emotional subject matter was a whole other story. “The loss of a mother is such a quintessential subject matter for Grey’s Anatomy,” that Pompeo wanted to do the Maggie-centric episode justice. Surprisingly, Pompeo didn’t find filming Maggie Pierce’s grief nearly as difficult as filming Meredith Grey’s relationship with her mother way back in Season 2. Having lost her own mother at a very young age, “The idea of a mother-daughter relationship who didn’t get along, I didn’t think about that [before filming with former costar Kate Burton].”
To help her through her first time in the Director’s Chair, she had the help of costar Debbie Allen (Catherine Avery), who not only helped her through some of the more difficult moments on set, but pushed her to take the director’s chair in the first place. “This force of nature wouldn’t take no for an answer…her force of nature and spirit of generosity, which not a lot of women have” is what Pompeo was grateful for while filming the emotional episode.
The experience brought Pompeo and Allen closer together, though Pompeo admits that at times “directing yourself is not fun. When I was tired or confused, Debbie was there to jump in.” Speaking of girl power, Pompeo had something to say about her character’s new romance. In “Be Still, My Soul”, Meredith gave Riggs the brush-off in favor of being with her sister during her grief. The moment has Grey’s Anatomy fans wondering if Meredith and Riggs have any hope of a first date, let alone a future together. Pompeo doesn’t mind it so much, simply saying “Women have to stick together”.
At the end of the day Pompeo is grateful for the stories that keep her employed. “Everybody has a story. Your story is not more difficult than mine, mine is not more difficult than yours…Maybe why I’ve been able to do this show for so long is that I try not to have expectations, and I do that in my [real] life as well…I don’t want to miss what’s happening right now.”
Would you like to see Pompeo take up a more frequent place behind the camera?