How’s this for timing: Just as Grey’s Anatomy prepares to wrap its 12th season as ABC’s No. 1 drama, contracts for several of the show’s stars, including Ellen Pompeo, are set to expire in June.
The Shondaland crown jewel is not only besting its younger siblings Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder in the ratings, it’s also the second-most-popular drama on broadcast TV among women 18–34 (behind Fox hit Empire). That has to be great news for agents representing Pompeo (Meredith), Chandra Wilson (Bailey), Sara Ramirez (Callie), Kevin McKidd (Owen), Justin Chambers (Alex) and James Pickens, Jr. (Richard), all of whom will likely use the show’s stellar performance to push for higher salaries.
When asked about the contract negotiations, a spokesperson for ABC declined to comment. But Ramirez let it be known that her future may be in play when she recently tweeted this cryptic message: “That’s a wrap for Doctor #CallieTorrries #Season13 #GreyAnatomy,” she wrote last week. “Thank you all for an enriching & unforgettable #rollercoaster ride!” That could be bargaining tactic, or Ramirez’s idea of (teasing) fun. Two years ago, she tweeted a similar message that read, “Dear @shondarhimes & all who make #GreysAnatomy @GreysABC, it’s been a a roller coaster ride & an honor! Thank [you] all! #SeasonX #SeasonZen.”
In 2014, Pompeo and her fellow cast members, like Ramirez, Chambers, Wilson and Pickens, negotiated new deals that would keep them on the show through this month. At that time, Patrick Dempsey signed one too. But Dempsey never made it to season 12: in April of last year, executive producer Shonda Rhimes killed off his character, Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy), leaving MerDer fans to immediately predicted an abrupt end for the show. But Grey’s went on to enjoy a creative and ratings renaissance in its 12th season: If you combine the drama’s ratings with how well it does on platforms like video on demand and online viewing, Grey’s is actually up 6 percent this season versus last among adults 18–49 and has seen an increase of 11 percent among women 18–34.
“There was some anxiety,” ABC Studios head Patrick Moran tells EW. “I give Shonda Rhimes and her creative team enormous credit for deftly figuring out tonally how to move Meredith forward.”
What’s more, Grey’s Anatomy continues to lure new viewers: ABC reports viewership of the pilot has more than doubled over the past five years as younger viewers catch up with the drama. In addition, 57 percent of Grey’s online viewers are adults 18-34, while 38 percent of viewers who streamed the show over summer 2015 went on to watch the series on ABC last fall.
And everyone seems to be talking about Grey’s these days: ABC also reports that the drama is having its most social season to date. That’s probably why Pompeo joked on the April 25 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that while she and her castmates miss Dempsey, “it’s amazing how much you get done without a penis.” McSaucy!
With additional reporting by Natalie Abrams