"The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment," Pompeo tells Empire's Taraji P. Henson in a Variety conversation, without going into specific details about the show's behind-the-scenes issues. Pompeo says she even considered leaving because of the bad environment. "But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family," she says, adding that there were changes made after Season 10 that convinced her to stay. "At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money? I need to take care of my kids," she says. "But after Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years. My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes. Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That’s what’s kept me. Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission." Pompeo also discussed her salary discrepancy with Dempsey. "He was being paid almost double what I was in the beginning. He had a television quote. I had never done TV," she says. Pompeo says she was told Dempsey had "done 13 pilots." "Well, none of them have gone," says Pompeo. "I didn’t even realize until we were renegotiating Season 3. No one was offering that up." Henson responded: "That story sounds about like mine. But when all the tweets were about Cookie, I said, 'It’s time to renegotiate. Can everybody sit down at the table, please?' I’d been in the game long enough to know the numbers game, and I knew Cookie had become iconic. You need her. So I need my money."