Ellen Pompeo: "I Definitely Don't Have a Strong Desire to Act After 'Grey's Anatomy' "

Ellen Pompeo Kerry Washington Viola Davis - P 2014
Lesley Goldberg

Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo may focus more on her work as a producer when ABC's long-running medical drama eventually ends its run.

During a wide-ranging panel discussion about topics ranging from diversity to sex scenes with fellow Shondaland stars Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Viola Davis (freshman How to Get Away With Murder) on Wednesday night, the actress delivered candid remarks about her own future on screen. The panel, hosted by BuzzFeed, featured the leads of Shonda Rhimes' three Thursday dramas in a casual conversation that heaped considerable praise on the prolific showrunner for leading the charge to make broadcast television more representative of the world we live in.

Pompeo was asked about her focus on producing of late, a reference to the fact that she's been actively selling projects this season through her ABC Studios development deal. There's cop drama at ABC and a financial satire titled Debt at ABC Family, both via her three-year-old Calamity Jane banner The actress, who returns to star as Meredith Grey on ABC's soap for its 11th season later this month, noted that she's been working at it for the past six years and considers the process of finding books, articles and original ideas more challenging than acting at this point in her career. 

Then came the bombshell: "I definitely don't have a strong desire to act after Grey's; I definitely feel myself transitioning," she said of making a potential full-time move behind the camera. "I don't find acting terribly empowering. For the place I am in my life... I don't necessarily want to work for other people."

Asked to clarify what appeared to be a retirement declaration, she said: "I mean, never say never, I'm not going to come out and make one of those statements like, 'I'm retiring after' and then in February come back. … I try to keep an open heart, an open mind, an open soul and spirit to whatever comes my way, and whatever is meant to be for me will be."

Pompeo recently inked a new two-year deal to remain on Grey's Anatomy, though when pressed about the series' longevity during the panel she played coy. She was similarly evasive on the topic of spoilers, noting only that the upcoming season — which Rhimes has dubbed the "Year of Meredith" — will feature flashback scenes that have proved challenging to perform. (Pompeo's co-star Patrick Dempsey, who has also been with Grey's since its inception, just signed a similar development deal and is prepping a racing drama for Sundance TV.)

"I feel like the acting has been a wonderful opportunity, and I've just done so much of it over the past 11 years ... maybe part of my personality is I feel like I have something to prove sometimes. And with acting, I don't feel like I have anything to prove anymore — even though I have no awards!" she said to laughs. "Grey's is in 97 countries or something and we've had this blessing of all these wonderful fans who still love us 10 years later, I feel like I did it and I don't have anything left to prove, and I'd like to try to challenge myself."

She continued: "I'd like to see if I can be something different and be successful at something different. I feel like I'm very successful at acting. … For my journey, I feel like, OK, I did the absolute top of what I could do in television, and I'd like to try a new sport and see if I'm any good at something else."

Watch the full panel, below

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit