'As Caucasian people, it's our job': Ellen Pompeo calls for diversity on and off screen

Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo became one of the highest paid actors in television when she signed a $20 million deal with ABC last year. Now she's using that leverage to make changes in the industry when it comes to representation.
Actor Ellen Pompeo attends the 2018 InStyle Awards at The Getty Center in Los Angeles. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for InStyle)

Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo became one of the highest paid actors in television when she signed a $20 million deal with ABC last year. Now she's using that leverage to make changes in the industry when it comes to representation.

During a recent interview with Net-A-Porter, in which Pompeo, Gina Rodriguez, Gabrielle Union and Emma Roberts discussed a wide range of issues as part of a "Women in Television" issue, the topic switched to race and representation. Pompeo used it to turn the tables on the fashion website hosting the interview.

"This day has been incredible. And there's a ton of women in the room. But I don't see enough colour. And I didn't see enough colour when I walked in the room today," she said, referring to the production staff.

The moment was clipped and posted on Twitter, where it went viral, having been watched more than five million times already. It's also being held up as a good example of how white people can be allies for diversity. 

Pompeo added that the responsibility is on Caucasian people to empower change when it comes to everything from a website conducting an interview to a TV set to a major Hollywood picture.

"As Caucasian people, it's our job, it's our task, it's our responsibility to speak up in every single room we walk into," she said. "It's our job because we created the problem."

In 2017, when Pompeo initially revealed that she had renegotiated her Grey's Anatomy salary $20 million because it's what she "deserved," it made headlines. In a time when the pay gap between men and women in Hollywood is still rampant, Pompeo's was a good news story.

"I'm 48 now, so I've finally gotten to the place where I'm OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age," Pompeo told the Hollywood Reporter.

Now it would appear that she's also asking for her workplaces to, as she told Net-A-Porter, "look like the world that I walk around in every day."

You can see the full moment, which includes reactions (and a cheers) from Union and Rodriguez, beginning around the 16:20 mark in the video below.

Earlier this year, Frances McDormand shared a similar insight, albeit on a much bigger stage. While accepting her best actress Oscar, she ended her speech with these words:  "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."

An inclusion rider is a stipulation that actors can put into their contract that state things like at least 50 per cent of the cast and crew must be women or people of colour. The idea itself dates back to 2016, although it finally seems to be picking up real steam now. McDormand herself admitted backstage at the Oscars that after 35 years in the business, she had just learned about it.

While we can't say for sure if Pompeo uses an official inclusion rider, her actions would definitely suggest that she's for them.

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