Ellen Pompeo has admitted 'Grey's Anatomy' was a "really toxic" place to work for 10 years.

Ellen Pompeo

Ellen Pompeo

The 49-year-old actress has admitted there were "many moments" she wanted to walk away from her role as Meredith Grey in the medical drama series because there were "serious culture issues" on set and only stayed in order to provide for her family.

Asked if she ever wanted to leave, she said: "There were many moments. It's funny: I never wanted off the bus in the year that I could get off.

"The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment. But once I started having kids, it became no longer about me. I need to provide for my family.

"At 40 years old, where am I ever going to get this kind of money? I need to take care of my kids."

Ellen - who has children Stella, nine, Sienna, four, and two-year-old Eli with husband Chris Ivery - vowed to stick out the show following some "big shifts" with the cast and crew in order to eventually leave on a positive note.

Speaking to Taraji P. Henson for Variety's Actors on Actors series, she added: "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."

And the actress had another reason to stay as she was determined to prove she could carry the show without her co-star Patrick Dempsey, who played Derek 'McDreamy' Shepherd.

She said: "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."