Ellen Pompeo

Ellen Pompeo Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: November 10, 1969

Age: 54 years old

Birth Place: Everett, Massachusetts

An effervescent, quirky actress, Ellen Pompeo began her career working in commercials and episodic television guest spots before she hit the showbiz lottery by landing the lead role on the mega-hit television series, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). Before finding fame as on the small screen, Pompeo landed her first role alongside Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon in a major feature film, "Moonlight Mile" (2002). This led to a small part in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, followed by a more prominent turn in the Todd Phillips directed comedy, "Old School" (2003).

Although the latter film raised her profile in Hollywood, artistically satisfying projects were still not presenting themselves. That all changed when Pompeo was offered the title role of Meredith Grey on the medical melodrama, "Grey's Anatomy" in 2005.

As a surgical intern at a Seattle hospital struggling to navigate her intense professional and romantic life, Pompeo's emotionally honest performance won over viewers, catapulting her to TV stardom seemingly overnight. The show became a ratings bonanza, garnering Pompeo an impressive fan base and positioning her to enjoy a respectable career in film and on television for years to come.

Born Ellen Kathleen Pompeo on Nov. 10, 1969 in Everett, MA, she was raised in and around the Boston area by her father, Joseph, and stepmother after her mother, Kathleen, passed away due to an accidental overdose of painkillers when she was only four years old. Pompeo lived for a time on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in her late teens before moving to Miami, FL, where she earned a living as a cocktail waitress for a time, ultimately returning to New York a little over two years later.

While bartending at the SoHo Kitchen Bar & Grill, Pompeo was approached by a casting agent who suggested she audition for commercial work. The following day, Pompeo landed her first spot and was soon appearing in ads for Citibank and L'Oreal.

Minor roles on primetime series, such as the twisted comedy "Strangers with Candy" (Comedy Central, 1998-2001), and a handful of direct-to-video films followed. Her most notable credit was a guest-starring role on an episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010) in 2000 - she had previously appeared as another character in a 1996 outing - and was impressive enough to catch the attention of critics, but she still lacked that golden opportunity.

With a finite number of television series being filmed in NYC, Pompeo - a dedicated East Coaster - reluctantly relocated in earnest to Los Angeles to pursue her fledgling acting career in late 2001.

It would not take long for Pompeo's fortunes to change. After leaving a restaurant one evening, a young man flirted with the newly arrived Pompeo in the parking lot. It was up-and-coming actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who would meet up again with Pompeo only three weeks later at an audition for a feature film he was starring in. As luck would have it, she impressed director Brad Silberling enough to land a prominent role in her first major studio feature.

In the romantic melodrama "Moonlight Mile" (2002), Pompeo played the unexpected love interest of Gyllenhaal's character, a man whose fiancée has recently died, leaving him emotionally paralyzed. While the film received lukewarm reviews, the reception of Pompeo's performance was almost universally positive.

She quickly parlayed that credit into appearances in several major productions the following year. First came Steven Spielberg's high-flying period biopic "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a teenage con man, and Tom Hanks as the F.B.I. agent out to bring him in. Pompeo had a minor, although charming role as a naïve flight attendant seduced by the charismatic young con artist.

Next up was a slightly larger role in the Marvel comics adaptation "Daredevil" (2003), as Karen Page, secretary to attorney Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil (Ben Affleck). Unfortunately for Pompeo, the subplot of Murdock and Page's unrequited love was deemed to be a distraction from the main story, resulting in the majority of Pompeo's work being left on the cutting room floor.

As disappointing as her scaled back appearance in "Daredevil" may have been, Pompeo rebounded nicely with a supporting role in director Todd Phillips' raunchy collegiate comedy "Old School" (2003).

In the story of three thirty-something-year-old buddies (Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell) attempting to recapture their youth by starting a fraternity, Pompeo's breezy turn as Wilson's high-school crush instantly won her favor with audiences and producers, especially after the film became an unexpected box office hit.

That one breakthrough role, however, continued to elude her as Pompeo began appearing in a string of lower profile projects, including direct-to-video films such as the amateurish psychological thriller "Undermind" (2003), and the weak "Da Vinci Code" impersonator, "Art Heist" (2004), alongside Daniel Baldwin. That same year, she picked up a guest spot on an episode of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) during its final season.

After a year of doing little more than reading scripts, Pompeo finally stumbled upon a star-making project that appealed to her sensibilities and would showcase her attributes. As Dr. Meredith Grey, the titular lead of the mid-season medical dramedy "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ), Pompeo headlined a solid ensemble cast that included Patrick Dempsey, Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh.

As the Grey in the show's title, Pompeo achieved overnight TV star status when the show premiered to exceptionally strong ratings and was quickly rewarded occupancy in the coveted time slot following the hit series "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12). The show proved so popular it spawned a spin-off, the medical drama "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13).

During the show's run, Pompeo found real-life happiness when she married music producer, Chris Ivery in 2007.

Credits

Grey's Anatomy from ABC

Actor
Show
2021

The Drew Barrymore ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2020

Admiral BL: Dein Verein

Actor
Dr. Meredith Grey
Show
2018

Station 19Stream

Guest Star
Meredith Grey
Series
2018

Access

Guest
Show
2017

Live with Kelly and Ryan

Guest
Talk
2017

Riley and Abella - Beste Freundinnen

Actor
Dr. Meredith Grey
Movie
2016

The Late Late Show With James Corden

Guest
Talk
2015

Repeat After Me

Guest Star
Reality
2015

Variety Studio: Actors on Actors

Guest
Show
2014

Thank God It's Thursday on ABC

Guest
Show
2014

Late Night With Seth MeyersStream

Guest
Talk
2014

The Queen Latifah Show

Guest
Talk
2013

RuPaul's Drag Race All StarsStream

Guest
Reality
2012

The Chew

Guest
Talk
2011

Grey's Anatomy: Cast & Creators Live at the Paley Center

Guest
Show
2010

The Nate Berkus Show

Guest
Talk
2010

The Marriage Ref

Contestant
Show
2010

Watch What Happens Live With Andy CohenStream

Guest
Talk
2009

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

Guest
Talk
2009

Chelsea Lately

Guest
Talk
2007

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

Grey's AnatomyStream

Actor
Dr. Meredith Grey
Series
2005
84%

Grey's AnatomyStream

Director
Series
2005
84%

Grey's AnatomyStream

Executive Producer
Series
2005
84%

Grey's AnatomyStream

Voice
Dr. Meredith Grey
Series
2005
84%

Life of the Party

Actor
Phoebe
Movie
2005

Art Heist

Actor
Sandra Walker
Movie
2004

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Guest
Talk
2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Guest
Talk
2003

Old SchoolStream

Actor
Nicole
Movie
2003
60%

Undermind

Actor
Flynn
Movie
2003

Moonlight Mile

Actor
Bertie Knox
Movie
2002

The Job

Guest Star
Series
2001
100%

In the Weeds

Actor
Martha
Movie
2000

Get Real

Guest Star
Series
1999
67%

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

Access HollywoodStream

Guest
News
1996

FriendsStream

Guest Star
Missy Goldberg
Series
1994
78%

Extra

Guest
News
1994

Late Show With David Letterman

Guest
Talk
1993

Law & OrderStream

Guest Star
Series
1990

CBS News Sunday MorningStream

Guest
News
1979

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

Sesame StreetStream

Guest
Series
1969

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