While Patrick Dempsey might have charmed countless fans with his portrayal of heartthrob neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd during his eleven season run on the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, apparently his behavior off-screen was anything but “McDreamy.” According to Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large Lynette Rice’s How to Save a Life — an upcoming unauthorized book recounting the history of Grey’s Anatomy through a series of interviews with the show’s cast and crew — the final months of Dempsey’s career on the show were tumultuous, to say the least.
In an exclusive story for The Hollywood Reporter, Rice shared excerpts from the interviews she conducted for How to Save a Life, including several regarding the actor’s behavior on set. While quite a few cast members had things to say about Dempsey — including the actor himself — executive producer James D. Parriott’s comments were perhaps the most shocking, and shed some light on why McDreamy was ultimately kicked off the show.
“Shonda needed an OG to come in as sort of a showrunner for fourteen episodes. 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. 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.”
While Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes didn’t offer any quote on the matter herself — though she did speak about Dempsey’s departure somewhat evasively in 2015 (“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”) — writer Jeannine Renshaw agreed with Parriott’s comments regarding Dempsey on-set antics, adding his complaining often time upset co-star Ellen Pompeo and his behavior was “like a kid.”
“He’s so high energy and would go, ‘What’s happening next?’ He literally goes out of his skin, sitting and waiting. He wants to be out driving his race car or doing something fun. He’s the kid in class who wants to go to recess.”
When Dempsey was asked about his final days on Grey’s Anatomy, the actor told Rice that appearing on the show for eleven years and maintaining its rigorous schedule — especially as a father — was “challenging.” Dempsey then added he didn’t want to leave the show or turn it down because “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.” However, he ultimately lost the choice when — according to Renshaw — Rhimes told the studio they had to choose between either Dempsey or her to stay on the project.
If you’re interested in hearing more about Dempsey’s time on the show, additional interview excerpts have been shared over on The Hollywood Reporter. How to Save a Life, the unauthorized oral history of Grey’s Anatomy, hit shelves on September 21.