'Grey's Anatomy' star Ellen Pompeo says 'timing was everything' with $20 million contract

Ellen Pompeo says her new "Grey's Anatomy" deal was all about timing.

The actress revealed in January that she had signed on for two more seasons of the ABC medical drama, with a deal that made her the highest-paid actress on television. Pompeo is set to earn more than $20 million a year in "Grey's" upcoming 15th and 16th seasons -- $575,000 per episode, along with a seven-figure signing bonus and two full backend equity points on the series, estimated to bring in another $6 million to $7 million.

She opened up about the contract on Tuesday at a panel at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, saying that "timing was everything" when it came to signing her deal, referring to the recent push in Hollywood for pay equality between the sexes, a cause that has risen alongside the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

Pompeo also said she was "lucky enough" to have hard facts on her side when it came time to negotiate, using data that helped her quantify her value to the network powers that be. She was also the last man standing, in a way, as the longest-tenured original cast member and a producer on the show.

GREY'S ANATOMY - "Civil War" - Richard, Jackson, April and Catherine tackle a grueling trauma case intensified by hospital politics. Amelia finally faces her feelings about Owen, and Meredith gets caught between Nathan and Alex over a patient, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MARCH 9 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright)
ELLEN POMPEO

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey on "Grey's Anatomy."  (ABC)

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“The studio didn’t have two key players to leverage against me," she noted. "They no longer had Patrick Dempsey or Shonda [Rhimes]. They had nobody left to hang the franchise hat on.”

Pompeo opened up about going public with her massive deal earlier this year, admitting that she "caught a little flack" for sharing the details of her financial boon.

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“That was a tricky situation, because you don’t normally want to talk about money and talk about your salaries,” the 48-year-old actress told ET at the New York City launch of Young Living Essentials Oils’ Seedlings baby care line in May. “It’s admired and celebrated when a male athlete does it, and I think that’s precisely the reason why I decided to do it.”

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“The thing that’s been more meaningful is the women who have found it empowering and helpful,” Pompeo added. “I can’t tell you the amount of women who have approached me and just want to hug me and thank me for the audacity to be bold and maybe even a little crass, but authentic and explain my journey and my shortcomings, as well as my successes – has made it all worthwhile."