"He did the show because his wife is a big fan... I think he saw it as a good exercise to just come in and direct something quick," Pompeo told Grey's alum Patrick Dempsey. "But, imagine Denzel Washington coming on to direct an episode of Grey's Anatomy? That's something that I never thought that I would see, ever."
Despite Pompeo's excitement about having Washington direct, and the Oscar winner having an "amazing" presence on set, things didn't go off without a hitch, according to the actress.
"Superstars are superstars for a reason. There's just an energy and a vibration that they give off that makes them super charismatic. Patrick has it, Obama has it, anyone that I've ever met that's, like, crazy charismatic has it," she explained. "And Denzel has it in spades, for sure... But, Denzel's a movie star, right? He doesn't know s**t about directing TV."
While the filming the episode, in which Pompeo's character, Meredith Grey, is brutally attacked by an epileptic patient, resulting in a broken jaw that had to be wired shut, among other injuries, the actress made an off-script choice that Washington did not appreciate.
"One of the scenes at the end of the episode, I have to go [confront] this man who beat me up," she recalled. "And so Meredith was really hesitant and reluctant. My jaw was broken, and I couldn't bring myself to go hear the apology from this character... She was just at the point where she wasn't having it."
"I didn't really want to talk to this actor [Dohn Norwood] or see this actor before we did this scene, so I didn't have much interaction with him at all," she continued. "And then, he apologized to me, but he was doing it really softly. He made this choice to speak very softly. And I was pissed that I had to sit there and listen to this apology. And he wasn't looking at me in the eye... and I yelled at him, I was like, 'Look at me! When you apologize, look at me!' And that wasn't in the dialogue."
In response, Pompeo claimed, "Denzel went ham on my a**. He was like, 'I'm the director! Don't you tell him what to do!'" In turn, Pompeo responded, "Listen, motherf**ker, this is my show! This is my set!... You barely even know where the bathroom is!"
"I have the utmost respect for him as an actor, as a director, as everything, but we went at it!" Pompeo said. "And then his wife came to set to visit, and I was not talking to him. I was mad at him. And I told his wife, I was like, 'Yeah, he yelled at me today. He let me have it today, and I'm not OK with him, and I'm not looking at him, and I'm not talking to him.'"
"We didn't get though it without a fight, but, you know, that's actors for you! Passionate and fiery, that's where you get the magic. That's where you get the good stuff. It was an amazing experience," she added. "We were fine after that. He's just one of the best to ever do it."
Grey's Anatomy returns with a new episode Thursday, Feb. 24 on ABC.