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Ellen Pompeo Hit With Backlash After Saying She Called Denzel Washington A 'Motherf**ker' On 'Grey's' Set

Ellen Pompeo Hit With Backlash After Saying She Called Denzel Washington A 'Motherf**ker' On 'Grey's' Set
Rich Fury/Getty Images; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Ellen Pompeo was raked across the coals after bragging about the time she butted heads with Denzel Washington, who made his small-screen directorial debut in a 2015 episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Her recollection of working with the Tony-winning A-lister came up during her podcast, Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo.

She and her former Grey's co-star and podcast guest, Patrick Dempsey, were discussing the topic of directing when she said of Washington:

"He went nuts on me."

The actress said she improvised a line of dialogue in response to a guest star's acting choice in the season 12 episode, "The Sound of Silence."

Pompeo referred to herself and the guest star as both actors and characters when describing her clash with Washington on set.

"He made this choice to speak very softly," she said of the guest star, whose character was apologizing to Pompeo's character, Meredith, after seriously injuring her. (Pompeo said the scene was based on a real-life incident in which an "epileptic patient goes into a seizure and beat up a nurse.")

"And [Meredith] was pissed that [she] had to sit there and listen to this apology, and he wasn't looking at [her] in the eye."

"Again, we love actors who make choices, right?" she told Dempsey—whose character, Derek Shepherd, was killed off in the show's 11th season.

"And I yelled at him, and I was like, 'Look at me when you apologize. Look at me.' And that wasn't in the dialogue, and Denzel went ham on my ass."

She continued:

"He was like, 'I'm the director. Don't you tell him what to do.' And I was like, 'Listen, motherf'ker, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?'"
"Like, 'You barely know where the bathroom is.' And I have the utmost respect for him as an actor, as a director, as everything, but like, yo, we went at it one day."

Pompeo confronted Washington's wife when she came to visit the set and gave her an interesting take on what went down.

"I was like, 'Yeah, he yelled at me today. Yeah, he let me have it today, and I'm not okay with him, and I'm not looking at him, and I'm not talking to him.'"
"So we didn't get through it without a fight, but you know, that's actors for you — passionate and fiery — and that's where you get the magic, and that's where you get the good stuff. So it was an amazing experience, it really was."

Her story didn't sit well with people online.

And Denzel fans were quick to mention Grey's was not his first foray into the world of TV medical dramas.

She added the show's executive producer and director Debbie Allen brought Washington on to direct—at a time when Pompeo considered leaving the show—as a tactic to keep the actress "interested" because Allen knew she was a "huge fan."

Pompeo told Dempsey:

"Debbie Allen was like, 'What can I do to keep Ellen interested? What can I do to keep Ellen here?' because after you [Patrick] left, I was like, 'Oh, why do I have to stay here? I've got to go now. Everyone's gone. Sandra's [Oh] gone, Patrick's gone. I've got to go too."
"And Debbie was like, 'No, no, no. You've got to stick around. I'm going to bring in a surprise for you,' and she would never tell me who it was. But she knew I was a huge fan."