For years, fans have been wondering why Patrick Dempsey left Grey’s Anatomy. A new book about the series is finally explaining the real reason why he exited the show—but it’s also suggesting that the man who played Dr. Derek Shepherd wasn’t so “McDreamy” after all.
Dempsey, who began starring in Grey’s Anatomy in 2005, departed the series a decade later during season 11 of the ABC medical drama. In the years since, fans of his character have struggled to accept his exit, which was left largely unexplained at the time. Now, journalist and author Lynette Rice’s new book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy
, claims that Dempsey’s on-set behavior may be to blame for his departure. According to a source quoted in the book, the 55-year-old actor was “terrorizing the set” of Grey’s before his character was killed off in the series.
“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,” Grey’s producer James D. Parriott said in an excerpt of the book via The Hollywood Reporter. “He had this hold on the set where he knew he could stop production and scare people.”
Parriott continued, “The network and studio came down and we had sessions with them. I think he was just done with the show.” The producer went on to note that Dempsey and Grey’s showrunner Shonda Rhimes had a tense relationship. “He didn’t like the inconvenience of coming in every day and working,” Parriott said. “He and Shonda were at each other’s throats.”
According to Jeannine Renshaw, another producer on the show, “the final straw” for Rhimes was when she “finally witnessed” Dempsey’s behavior on set. “Shonda had to say to the network, ‘If he doesn’t go, I go,’” Renshaw recalled. “Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show. Him and Ellen [Pompeo]. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”
Dempsey, for his part, offered a quote to the unauthorized Grey’s book about his experience on the series: “It’s ten months, fifteen 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,” he said. “Doing that for eleven 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.”
This flexibility, however, clearly fizzled out by the time Dempsey’s exit was written into the script. Following his departure, producer Rhimes told fans that it was “never” part of the plan to see his character go. “Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character—for Meredith, for me, and for the fans. I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our McDreamy,” she said in 2015. “Patrick Dempsey’s performance shaped Derek in a way that I know we both hope became a meaningful example—happy, sad, romantic, painful, and always true—of what young women should demand from modern love. His loss will be felt by all.”
How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy
by Lynette Rice hits bookshelves on September 22, 2021, and is available to pre-order here
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