ABC's most powerful producer, Shonda Rhimes, is as cagey and talented as any showrunner in the business when it comes to not answering questions she doesn't want to. Press tour sessions with her – like this afternoon's panel featuring Rhimes and the leads of “Grey's Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” – often involve her smiling cryptically and refusing to acknowledge the premises of questions, much less answer them.
But when asked why she chose to kill off Patrick Dempsey's Derek Shepherd on “Grey's,” Rhimes began speaking quickly and elaborately.
“The decision to have the character die the way that he did was not a difficult one in the sense of what were the options?” she explained. “Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith and leave her high and dry, and what was that going to mean? That was going to suggest that the love was not true. The thing we had said about their love was a lie, and McDreamy wasn't McDreamy. For me, that was untenable. Meredith and Dereks' love had to remain Meredith and Dereks' love. As painful as it was for me as a storyteller… the only way to preserve what felt true to me was that Derek was going to die in order for that love to remain honest. To have him be a bad guy who walks out on his wife and kids wouldn't have felt true to the story. To me, it felt like that was the only way to make Meredith and Derek's magic remain true and forever frozen in time.”
She was a bit more evasive in discussing the decision to write out the character at all, and the end of her working relationship with Dempsey, saying, “I guess I can say that we had a lot of discussion about it. It wasn't easy or fun. It's never easy or fun. We've been working really hard for a long time together. We're family. Those choices and those decisions are never easy for any of us.”
“As difficult as those decisions are, it's really her best writing,” offered “Grey's” star Ellen Pompeo. “As an actor, those are the best scenes to play. That's the meatiest stuff. As difficult as that is, it's really juicy.”