The actor, who portrayed Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd for 11 seasons, reportedly expressed his frustrations with the hit medical drama in Lynette Rice’s unauthorized book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy. Meanwhile, executive producer James D. Parriott recalls alleged “HR issues” with Dempsey and claims he was “terrorizing the set.” ET has reached out to Dempsey and show creator Shonda Rhimes for comment. ABC has no comment at this time.
“It’s 10 months, 15 hours a day. You never know your schedule, so your kid asks you, ‘What are you doing on Monday?’ And you go, ‘I don’t know,’ because I don’t know my schedule,” Dempsey says in an excerpt shared by The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday. “Doing that for 11 years is challenging. But you have to be grateful, because you’re well compensated, so you can’t really complain because you don’t really have a right. You don’t have control over your schedule. So, you have to just be flexible.”
Rice, meanwhile, writes, “There was talk of Dempsey’s diva-like fits and tension between him and [Ellen] Pompeo,” with Parriott needing to be brought in to oversee the actor’s exit.
“There were HR issues. It wasn’t sexual in any way. He sort of was terrorizing the set. Some cast members had all sorts of PTSD with him,” Parriott alleges. “He had this hold on the set where he knew he could stop production and scare people. The network and studio came down and we had sessions with them. I think he was just done with the show. He didn’t like the inconvenience of coming in every day and working. He and Shonda were at each other’s throats.”
Producer and writer Jeannine Renshaw remembers times where Pompeo, who portrays lead Meredith Grey and Dempsey’s love interest, was allegedly “frustrated with Patrick and she would get angry that he wasn’t working as much.”
“She was very big on having things be fair. She just didn’t like that Patrick would complain that ‘I’m here too late’ or ‘I’ve been here too long’ when she had twice as many scenes in the episode as he did,” Renshaw relays. “When I brought it up to Patrick, I would say, ‘Look around you. These people have been here since 6:30 a.m.’ He would go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He would get it. It’s just that actors tend to see things from their own perspective.”
Dempsey’s character ended up dying in season 11. Pompeo revealed in 2018 that she hadn’t spoken to Dempsey since his “Grey’s” exit in 2015. “I have no hard feelings toward him. He’s a wonderful actor, and we made the best TV you can make together,” she said on “Red Table Talk”. “Typically, when people leave the show, they need to sort of find themselves, who they are without the show, because the show takes up so much of your life. You need that time to figure out who you are without the show, so, we have not spoken, but I will always have a place in my heart for Patrick.”
In the excerpt, Dempsey recalls wanting to leave the show, but being offered more money to stay.
“It [was] hard to say no to that kind of money. How do you say no to that? It’s remarkable to be a working actor, and then on top of that to be on a show that’s visible. And then on top of that to be on a phenomenal show that’s known around the world, and play a character who is beloved around the world. It’s very heady,” he shares. “It [was] a lot to process, and not wanting to let that go, because you never know whether you will work again and have success again.”
Renshaw then alleges that “a lot of the complaining” from Dempsey, Rhimes “finally witnessed it herself, and that was the final straw.” “Shonda had to say to the network, ‘If he doesn’t go, I go.’ Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show. Him and Ellen. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business,” she recalls.
There were three potential storylines to say goodbye to McDreamy, but eventually they decided it was best to kill him off.
“I don’t think there was any way to exit him without him dying. He and Meredith were such an incredibly bonded couple at that point. It would be completely out of character if he left his kids,” producer and writer Stacy McKee states. “There was no exit that would honor that character other than if he were to die.”
As for Dempsey, he admits that he doesn’t remember the date he got the news of his character’s death.
“It was not in the fall. Maybe February or March. It was just a natural progression. And the way everything was unfolding in a very organic way, it was like, ‘Okay! This is obviously the right time,'” he reflects. “Things happened very quickly. We were like, ‘Oh, this is where it’s going to go.'”
“I very quietly left. It was beautiful. It was raining, which was really touching,” he recalls of his last day. “I got in my Panamera, got in rush-hour traffic, and two hours later I was home.”
This year, fans were over-the-moon to see Dempsey back on Grey’s after his character’s death six years ago. During the show’s 17th season, Dempsey returned as a pseudo-angel in Meredith’s coma dream, as she battled COVID-19. Derek and Meredith finally tied the knot in a fantasy beachside wedding, giving fans a moment that they never thought they would see.
“I thought it was a beautiful way to close it,” Dempsey told Variety about his unexpected return. “The intention was to really give people some hope because they are such an iconic couple. We’ve lost so many people this year, the thought that we’d have angels hovering around us taking care of us is a good message to send out in such a bleak world that we’re living in.”
The actor said it was “a beautiful ending” to his story, and to his character’s romance with Meredith, noting, “I’m so grateful that I did it and happy that the fans really loved it.”
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