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Ellen Pompeo Says She Would Have Left Grey's Anatomy If She Were Younger

"My clock was already ticking in Hollywood"

Sadie Gennis

Although fans might be thrilled that Ellen Pompeo will return for a 13th season of Grey's Anatomy this fall, the actress recently revealed she likely would have left the show by now if she were younger.

"My decision to stay on Grey's was based solely on age," the 46-year-old toldPeople. "At 33, I was wise enough to know my clock was already ticking in Hollywood."

Pompeo landed the coveted role of Meredith Grey on the ABC drama when she was 34, before which her biggest credits were minor film roles in Ben Affleck's Daredevil, Catch Me If You Can and Old School. Pompeo admits that if she had gotten an earlier start in acting, she "probably would have done my time, then gone out to search for other things." However, Pompeo chose to keep re-upping her contract with the Shondaland series because she believed it would be "challenging" to land other roles in her late 30s and 40s.

Richard Cartwright/ABC

Despite the large role Hollywood ageism played in Pompeo's decision to stay with Grey's, the actress is quite content with her choice. "I thought, 'Why would I leave something that is super successful and pays me great to search the landscape?' she said. "I decided that I would stay on Grey's and be grateful and try to ride it out for as long as I could. And I am very happy that I made the decision to stay. It's only gotten better with time."

But there is one aspect of her job Pompeo has yet to come to terms with: "Watching myself age on TV is miserable. To be honest, it's the toughest part of my job."

"But as uncomfortable as watching myself age is, I don't think focusing on physical beauty is necessarily the best thing for your mind," she continued. "It's a natural thing that we all do, but I don't think it's the healthiest thing. The older you get, the more you realize life isn't about your looks. Everyone ages, and it's OK."

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8/7c on ABC.