So long the underdog, Ellen Pompeo has finally hit the big time as the star of the award-winning drama 'Grey's Anatomy'.
Male critics have sniffed at the 'vapid' scripts and 'mawkish' acting in the drama about five trainee surgeons at a Seattle hospital. But Pompeo's portrayal of a woman totally competent in her work and an utter disaster in her relationships has forced even veteran Hollywood producers to examine how a lead who is such a mess - prone to getting drunk in bars and picking up strangers - can prove so compelling.
She was 25 when she got her first break; an acting agent approached her as she was working the bar at the SoHo Kitchen. The agent put Pompeo up for three adverts; she got all three. Then Pompeo landed a part opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2002 film Moonlight Mile. He, by chance, had come up to her in a car park three weeks previously and told her she was 'the most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my entire life'. For her the coincidence was life-changing. 'It sort of hit me that I was being guided,' she says. 'I had sort of spent my twenties up until then looking for some sign of my mother, you know, "Make the chandelier swing and show me that you're with me." And at that point I put my faith in the idea that life gives you signs and, whether it's my mother's spirit or not, I've had too many coincidences in my life for it to be normal.'
[...] I ask what she makes of her character's romantic travails in Grey's Anatomy. 'She has a complete lack of emotional intelligence,' she exclaims. 'I just want to smack some sense into her.' What would she advise her? 'Don't ever beg a man.' (She is referring to the scene where Meredith pleads with her married lover Derek to choose her.) 'He should be begging you!'