‘I’m the director!’ The day Denzel Washington put Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith in her place

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Oscar winner Denzel Washington directed an episode of the medical drama starring Ellen Pompeo. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images, Disney - ABC Domestic Television)
Oscar winner Denzel Washington directed an episode of the medical drama starring Ellen Pompeo. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images, Disney - ABC Domestic Television)

If you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan you’ll be used to your feelings being knocked all over the place: be it an ugly cry, a belly laugh or howls of shock, the iconic medical drama knows just how to wring maximum emotion out of its devotees. 

And emotions run high on the set too!

Take The Sound of Silence, for example; the episode in season 12 that saw the staff of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital being sent into a frenzy when multiple patients were brought in after a horrific accident. 

In the madness of the episode, which was directed by cinematic legend Denzel Washington, Meredith, played by Ellen Pompeo, is left to deal with a hyper-aggressive patient who physically assaults her. 

But it wasn’t only the doctors and patients who got heated while in character.

Turns out sparks flew between Denzel and the leading lady – and not in a good way.

Executive producer Debbie Allen had apparently called on Denzel (66) to direct an episode as a "surprise" for Ellen after a decade of her starring in the show.

Reflecting on that episode recently with her co-star and “work husband” Patrick Dempsey during her podcast Tell Me with Ellen Pompeo, the actress shared her respect for Hollywood heavyweight Denzel recounting how the pair went at it hammer and tongs on set when he was not impressed by her improv skills. 

"I was like, ‘Look at me when you apologise. Look at me'," she recalled yelling at an actor during a scene which aired in 2016. "And that wasn't in the dialogue. Denzel went ham on my ass. He was like, ‘I'm the director. Don't you tell him what to do'." 

"He came probably three weeks prior so he could get caught up, because Denzel doesn't watch much TV, he's probably never seen the show," the actress shared. "He did the show because his wife is a big fan. His wife is really who told him, 'That show's amazing, you should go do it'. I think he saw it as a good exercise to just come in and direct something quick."

"I was like, ‘Listen, motherf****r, this is my show'," Ellen continued. “‘This is my set. Who are you telling?’" 

With over four decades in showbiz under his belt,
With over four decades in showbiz under his belt, Denzel's been called the 'greatest of all time' by fellow Hollywood actors. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall! 

With a CV that spans four decades in film, it’s a given that Denzel knows what he’s doing. The star is tipped as a favourite to win best actor at next year’s Oscars for his role in The Tragedy of Macbeth. 

Other Grey’s Anatomy stars have praised the veteran actor, with Ellen’s co-star, Jason George, telling E!, "There is a slight difference when a director [who] has been an actor is directing you. Denzel leads everybody in the dust in terms of that.” 

Despite their spat, Ellen just like everyone else, has the most respect for “my man” Denzel’s talent. 

“So, we didn’t get through it without a fight, but that’s actors for you,” she told Patrick. "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."


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24