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Grey’s Anatomy Star Ellen Pompeo Names Her Favorite Near-Death Scene As Meredith, And The Answer Was Not What I’d Expect

Meredith Grey sits at a desk on Grey's Anatomy.
(Image credit: ABC)

Meredith Grey has taken more than her fair share of abuse in 18 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. She’s nearly drowned, survived a plane crash, held a live bomb inside a patient and more. It’s hard to predict which of Meredith’s multiple near-death experiences actress Ellen Pompeo would pick as her favorite — as she prepares to take a more limited role in the Grey’s Anatomy’s upcoming 19th season — but the one she chose was definitely not the one I would have expected.

Ellen Pompeo spoke about all the times Meredith has almost died on her podcast Tell Me (opens in new tab), and despite having at least seven tragedies in which the Seattle surgeon nearly went to meet her maker, the actress didn’t hesitate when asked to choose her favorite. She immediately named Season 12’s “The Sound of Silence,” which was directed by Denzel Washington. Here’s what Pompeo had to say about the episode: 

My favorite Meredith scene where she almost dies was definitely episode 12x09 [“The Sound of Silence”]. Definitely I would rate that as one of my favorite episodes of all time, and getting to work with one of my favorite acting heroes was definitely one of the top two highlights of making the show over all these seasons.

Her getting to work with Hollywood legend Denzel Washington is the reason Ellen Pompeo gave for choosing that as not just her favorite Meredith near-death experience, but as one of her top highlights on the series overall! And that’s also precisely why it was not the answer I would have expected the actress to give.

While “The Sound of Silence” is one of Grey’s Anatomy’s best episodes to date, in which Meredith is attacked by a patient in a fugue state and is shown in different stages of her recovery over a six-week period, Ellen Pompeo and Denzel Washington famously did not see eye to eye on set. 

On a previous episode of her podcast, Ellen Pompeo recalled improvising part of an emotional scene in which the patient who attacked Meredith came to apologize. The actress said:

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. He was like, ‘I'm the director. Don't you tell him what to do!' I was like, ‘Listen, motherfucker, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling?'

When she retold the story, she insisted there was no bad blood between the two pros, chalking it up to actors being passionate for their craft. Still, though, I can’t imagine engaging in such a fiery exchange would find its way onto my “best days on the job” list. 

Denzel Washington seemed to confirm the behind-the-scenes story was much ado about nothing, sidestepping the question when asked by Variety earlier this year if he remembered that incident. He first said, “No, no,” before adding — with a slight grin, according to the trade — “But it’s all good.”

It’s unfortunate for the character that Meredith has had to fight for her life so many times (not to mention witness all of Grey’s Anatomy’s other heartbreaking moments and saddest deaths), but it has made for some great television for loyal viewers. Hopefully Ellen Pompeo’s reduced number of episodes in Season 19 aren’t the result of yet another tragedy, but I think we’ve learned by now to never assume Meredith is safe! Find out for yourself when Grey’s Anatomy returns at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, October 6, on ABC. Check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see all of the upcoming premieres.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.