by Oscar Hayes... Meet Meredith Grey. She's a woman trying to lead a real life while doing a job that makes having a real life impossible. Meredith is a first-year surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, the toughest surgical residency program west of Harvard. She and fellow first-year interns Cristina Yang, Izzie Stevens, George O'Malley and Alex Karev were students yesterday; today they're doctors and, in a world where on the job training can be a matter of life and death, they're all juggling the ups and downs of their own personal lives.
This time last year your show wasn't even on the air when we came in here to talk to you. And you've both been on the cover of magazines since then. How does that feel?ELLEN POMPEO: I'm kind of upset that he's much better looking than I am.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah, right.
ELLEN POMPEO: But, you know. And this one. Look at her.KATHERINE HEIGL: Oh, yeah, I'm hot right now.
ELLEN POMPEO: We're happy. We're having agreat time, you know. We're very, very blessed. And I think we all appreciate, you know, how -- how successful the show has been. And I think recently we've seen so many shows debut and get pulled off the air so quickly. It -- unfortunately at the expense of those people we truly appreciate how -- how much success we've had, because it is lightening in a bottle and it doesn't happen. It's very rare. They pull shows off the air after two episodes if they don't do huge numbers. So we're really lucky and I think we all know that.
Patrick was talking about the relationship issue and how he didn't even know his character was married until he read it in the script. Is that when you found out too? And how has that impacted your character in the show.
ELLEN POMPEO: Well, it's great because had you known then it wouldn't be -- I wouldn't probably be able to play it as well. You know, me being as surprised, you know, finding out at the last minute helped bring the element of surprise to the performance. So I like not knowing because you don't know what's going to happen in real life, so I don't really want to know too far in advance.
KATHERINE HEIGL: I want to know. I alwayswant to know.So what do you think of their relationship right now? I mean, where -- as it's airing in America there -- you know, they've had that moment where she's crying in the closet and you think they're going to kiss but he goes home to his wife. I mean, what do you think about this whole push, pull.
ELLEN POMPEO: I think that they'll keep it going as long as they can. You know, I think to --to -- to bring us back together is sort of then what do they do. So I think -- I'm not a writer, but I think maybe the goal is to keep us apart -- this far apart for as long as they possibly can.She's going through quite a lot as well with her mother -- isn't she? -- in that there's lots of complicated issues being thrown in ... so sort of quite distant relationship between them. The mother is almost sort of pushing your character away. I mean, what's that like to play? Is it -- you know, quite sort of interesting in terms of, you know, just kind of doing that whole very complicated mother and daughter thing.
ELLEN POMPEO: You know, Kate Burton is so fantastic.
She plays my mother. She's the daughter of Richard Burton actually. So she is really the real thing. I mean, she is a theater actress from New York City. And she's just so engaging and so fantastic that she draws me right in. You know, it's really, really easy to play those complex scenes with her. And it's quite interesting for me because my mother died when I was four. So I don't -- I never had a relationship with my mother. So it's all a very interesting take on it. Not at all what I would have imagined. You know, you don't imagine -- I could never imagine having a difficult relationship with my mother because, you know, that wouldn't be idealistic enough, you know. So I love it. I think it's a great sort of -- it would be boring any other way, you know, to just have a normal -- you know, conflict is interesting.Did it bring up any emotions in you, then, having not had a mother for so -- you know, most of your life to be doing that sort of scenes? I mean, did it kind of, you know -- is it quite emotionally hard for that reason.
ELLEN POMPEO: Not -- it's just -- it just makes you think a lot, you know. And I think it just brings an element of thought to the performance that may not ordinarily be there. You know, I can think a lot more about the -- the complexity of the scenes that -- you know, those scenes I don't just sort of maybe breeze through like I would in a relationship scene with Derek. You know, he and I are just sort of blah, blah, blah, yup, love you too. Bye. You know, we don't have to think about it too much 'cause it's like second nature. Where my scenes with Kate Burton I really sort of think about the complexities of a mother/daughter relationship and it's a more interesting storyline for me. More thought-provoking.Justin, you're supposed to be a bad boy and now you're...
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah.
We see a lot of soft side of you and...
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah.
...it's hard to go back to that bad guy?
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah. Well, I guess because it's sort of his cover-up, you know. I think underneath he's not as, you know -- it isn't as much -- it's a lot of bravado. So when we first meet him you see that he's on top and he's just started at this new hospital and he thinks he's the cock of the walk. But, you know,through his relationships with the patients and fellow interns sort of break it down and you sort of see the human side and fallible side and -- I think we're going to try to build him a little bit more back into the confidence, you know, side. But that's what makes good drama, you know.
So what's your take on his relationship with Izzie and where they could go or not go.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: You know, Alex being emotionally retarded he sort of doesn't know. You know,he feels something there and I think he likes her more than he thought he would. So it's sort of -- we'll stretch that out for a while of him coming to terms with, I guess, real love. So it's fun. It's fun drama.
And what about the whole idea of him failing that exam and that issue? Was that fun to play because he's -- he becomes so much more...
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah. Human. Yeah, definitely a good aspect to, you know, somebody who -- you know, we're all competitive with each other. To see that, you know, he's sort of hit a roadblock and now has to try to overcome it and, you know, she helps me sort of study and it's just -- yeah, it's good to see him sort of fall off his horse and try to get back on.That's the period where your character forgives him and kind of moves on too. What do you think of the way she's handled everything that's happened? Was she in love with him, do you think, or...
KATHERINE HEIGL: I don't think there was much -- they didn't give us enough of a chance before he made his terrible, terrible mistake to be -- for them to be in love. You know what I mean? For her to fall that far. I think she was very, you know, sort of taken and smitten with him, but I think she felt like, you know, what -- I mean, I think it was Cristina that said, "If you dance with a snake you're going to get bit." And I think she sort of feels, Well, you know what? I gave this guy a shot even though I know he was a little edgy and that he could probably, you know, make a stupid choice and hurt me in some way. And he did and so now I have to, you know, take responsibility for my own part in that and setting myself up for it. But I think, you know, I think she -- I think Izzie has a weird tendency to gravitate towards people who are -- sort of lost, you know. Or sort of emotionally dysfunctional, I guess. I don't know. She just tends to, like, want to take care of everybody or something.
How different are you from her.
KATHERINE HEIGL: I'm not as -- I don't think I'm as tolerant as she is. I'm a very intolerant person. I don't have as much -- I think she tends to be very patient and very emotionally connected to her patients and stuff and very sort of optimistic, almost naive, as far as -- you know, among the surgeons she kind off comes off the most sort of cheer-leadery, I guess. I don't know. That's a bad way to describe her because now they're going to write her like that even more. But I think -- I like to believe I'm -- I can be optimistic. I'm definitely not naive anymore.
I'm definitely not as patient a person. She's -- I would never have forgiven him. I would never have spoken to him again. I would never have given him the time ofday. It would never have happened.
ELLEN POMPEO: I think the great thing about Izzie's char -- about Izzie is that she's compassionate, which you don't see in a lot of doctors. I think in real life we all wish more doctors were compassionate. And I think that's a really likeable quality and I think Kate does a great job of that kind of -- bringing that to life.
A hospital can be a horrible place for a woman. In Brazil it's very hard for a woman to be like a surgeon.
ELLEN POMPEO: Oh, is it.
And how it's here -- how do you see this and how do you play it in the show? How do you put it in your characters? Because it's very hard to be awoman in a place that men are always in command.
ELLEN POMPEO: Do you want to answer that.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Yeah, I don't know. I haven't been in very many hospitals. I know that I've never met a female surgeon. I know that I've only ever met male surgeons.
ELLEN POMPEO: Yeah, nor have I. You know, I guess, you know -- yeah, I don't know about the hospital thing, but I think, you know, in life, you know, women we have to work maybe a little harder to prove ourselves. And if we -- you know, I guess you could sort of -- there's a parallel in Hollywood, you know. If -- if I were to do something -- if you and I were to do the same thing, you know, yell at someone or -- you know, you'd be a strong businessman and I'd be a bitch.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Right.
ELLEN POMPEO: You know. That's still in the United States with Oprah and, you know, with Martha Stewart and all the wonderful examples that we have of leaders, there's still very much a double standard.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Yeah.
ELLEN POMPEO: You know -- I don't know. I mean, in the United States we embrace men I think before we would embrace a woman. Or embrace a man for his mindor his power.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Yeah.
ELLEN POMPEO: And a woman you just embrace for her -- whether she's pretty or not and whether she's in -- you know, Martha Stewart must be a bitch and she has to go jail for what she did, but the guys who were involved in Enron...
KATHERINE HEIGL: Yeah.
ELLEN POMPEO: ...didn't suffer any consequences. So I think that it's just everywhere. There's still some sexism, unfortunately. And that's okay.
KATHERINE HEIGL: We will rise again.
Do you think you guys all have what it would take to be doctors.
ELLEN POMPEO: No.
KATHERINE HEIGL: No.
ELLEN POMPEO: No way.
How do you think the fact that women in TV are doing much better than, you know, movies now.
ELLEN POMPEO: Oh, I didn't know that. Are we?
KATHERINE HEIGL: What do you mean.
This year is considered a bad year for women in movies.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Why.
I don't know. Because...
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: The gay cowboys.
The gay ... it's almosthard to find like five nominees for...
ELLEN POMPEO: Yes. Well, I know that I don't see any scripts that I like. Yeah. That I know. And that's part of the reason why I took this show. Was because I was tired of playing, you know, the girlfriend parts.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Right.
ELLEN POMPEO: I was really kind of fortunate and worked with some great people, but really small roles, you know. And the one big role that I did I was just the chick, you know. So it's like you can either do really, really tiny interesting roles or you can be the lead but you're not going to have much to do.
KATHERINE HEIGL: Right.
ELLEN POMPEO: So that's what was attractive about this show for me.
KATHERINE HEIGL: I think that -- I just read something there that the films right now are very issue driven. A lot of -- I mean, a lot of what you're seeing that's been nominated and stuff for the Oscars and whatever are very sort of issue driven, very political. And, you know, there isn't a ton of room for women in that kind of stuff right now. I mean, it's "Syriana" and "Good Night and Good Luck" and -- what's the otherone? I can't remember right now. But, you know, those are all sort of male-driven, political stories. So I think it will shift again. I hope it shifts again. I'm grateful as all to get-out to have this job, to have Shonda Rhimes' writing because she's a woman who believes so much in other women and has given us a voice and not just a petty, insignificant voice, but has made us intelligent, ambitious, driven, competitive, flawed, beautiful women. It's great.
We were talking earlier about the difficulties of balancing family life when you're on as how like this.
You have five children, don't you? I mean, tell us what it's like for you.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Well, they're in New York so that's what makes it really rough. I mean, I'm here all the time, you know. And if not here, I'm at my small apartment down the street. But, you know, with the success of the show now it seems like I'll be planting them here and having more of a normal life.
Has it been hard ?
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Yeah, it's been really hard.
How often have you been getting back to see your family?
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: Not enough, you know. I mean the holidays were just here so I was home for that.
And then my wife is here now but she's by herself and we're just trying to, you know, sort of set up shop here and just re-adjust, but it hasn't been easy, no. But it's not as if I've been sitting home pining away. I've been here working, you know, pretty busy so -- you know, it's a good problem. It's nice to have security. I gotta put them in school when they get older and all that so sort of the good -- you know, the bad comes with the good.
(You have) five children in the States. What made you go for that?
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: What made me go five kids? I don't know. I was a little young and just sort of went with it.
ELLEN POMPEO: His wife is gorgeous.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: My wife is gorgeous.
No TV at home. Are you Catholic? Is that why?
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: No cable. I'm not Catholic. Not Mormon. We're just -- my oldest is 11 so we were pretty young when we started.
And the youngest.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: He's four.
When you're in a show like this and you have the chances to be many years on and the same time to do other work in the side, how much are you willing to be in this show as an actor.
ELLEN POMPEO: I'm sorry. I don't understand.
How many years would be willing to be in the show.
ELLEN POMPEO: Oh, well, contractually we're obligated to 6 years. Before you -- before you even start filming the show they make you sign a contract. So it's pretty difficult to get out, especially when it's a success like it is. They're much less willing to -- you know, it's a money-generating vehicle so, you know, we -- we can't go anywhere.
KATHERINE HEIGL: We'll be here for a while.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: There's no other TV we'd want to do.
ELLEN POMPEO: No.
JUSTIN CHAMBERS: And then I have two small projects I did over the last 3 years that will probably never see the light of day that were really good. You know, good cast, interesting roles. So to work on something that so many people see -- the writing is good. A lot better than a lot of scripts, you know, wereas. Why would we want -- you know, we want to ride this as long as people watch it and, you know -- I'd sort of like -- you know, through this job not be at the mercy of films and just sort -- or any work. Just kind of like -- not the end the road, but like this is sort of a good setup for us all to have freedom after the show's success.