Ellen Pompeo fights back the tears as she discusses the impact “Grey’s Anatomy” has had on fans during an appearance on Tuesday’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”.

The 48-year-old, who has played Dr. Meredith Grey on the series since 2005, tells the talkshow host: “A teenager in the show was gay and he played a gay character in the show and after we’d filmed the whole entire episode he said to me, ‘My whole life, I’ve watched this show with my parents. And I’ve sort of used the show as a way to tell my parents that I was gay.'”

Pompeo goes on to say how he’d also told her that it had helped his parents know that having a gay son wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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She adds that he’d shared, “‘For my parents to now see me as an actor getting a part on this show…'” before she wells up and says: “It’s been everything, I gotta keep doing it man! We’re touching lives and making a difference.”

The chat starts with DeGeneres asking Pompeo whether she’ll be back for season 16, to which she replies: “Yes of course! My contract is until season 16, so I’m completely obligated to do season 16.

“With these numbers there’s just no end in sight, with streaming and the show is so popular. Everywhere we go, people come up to me with tears in their eyes and tell me how meaningful the show is to them.”

Pompeo’s appearance also sees her talk about being honoured at the GLSEN Respect Awards and the importance of students forming Gay/Straight Alliance clubs in schools.

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Pompeo and DeGeneres then hold a live auction, with the audience bidding for the chance to win a VIP Starbucks experience with the star to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.