For as long as there’s been Grey’s Anatomy, there’s been drama behind-the-scenes with the show, its cast and its producers. But who knew that part of that drama came from Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd himself?
In a new tell-all book from Entertainment Weekly, scribe Lynette Rice (the same reporter whose exclusive exit interview with Patrick Dempsey accidentally landed in the hands of some subscribers before his final episode aired), reveals it was behind-the-scenes strife between Dempsey, other cast members and show creator Shonda Rhimes that led to the character’s death.
“There were HR issues. It wasn’t sexual in any way. He sort of was terrorizing the set,” former executive producer James D. Parriott revealed in an exclusive book excerpt published in The Hollywood Reporter. As per the excerpt, Parriott was an original EP who returned to showrun in Season 11 because he was considered to be the Dempsey Whisperer.
“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.”
How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy drops September 21 and features 320 pages that examine the show’s 16-year history. Rice conducted interviews with more than 80 people for the project, including Dempsey himself.
“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,” Dempsey 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.”
“There were times where Ellen [Pompeo, a.k.a. Meredith] was 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,” said former producer Jeannine Renshaw.
“When I brought it up to Patrick, I would say, ‘Look around you. These people have been here since six thirty a.m.’ He would go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He would get it. It’s just that actors tend to see things from their own perspective,” she continued.
“He’s 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.”
A person only identified as a “long-time crew member” also confirmed the behaviour, saying they like Dempsey but his “schtick” was indefensible and he was like the Lone Ranger. “All the rogue actresses would go running to Shonda and say, ‘Hey, Patrick’s doing this. Patrick’s late for work. He’s a nightmare.’ He was just shut out in the cold,” the source said.
“His behaviour wasn’t the greatest, but he had nowhere to go. He was so miserable. He had no one to talk to. When Sandra [Oh] left, I remember him telling me, ‘I should’ve left then, but I stayed on because they showed me all this money. They just were dumping money on me.’”
“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,” Dempsey revealed.
“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.”
Eventually, according to Renshaw, Rhimes herself witnessed the behaviour and told the network that if Dempsey didn’t go, she was going to go. The Powers That Be then conceded, despite Dempsey only being halfway through a giant, two-year deal.
Following publication of the THR story, some fans were downright shocked at the allegations. Others staunchly defended the actor online.
If you’ll recall, Dempsey was written off the show when his character was killed off in an accident (made worse by the incompetent doctors at a different hospital who were trying to save him). Fans were devastated by the character’s death, but behind-the-scenes it seemed like the only way to move on.
It’s worth noting this isn’t the first time a Grey’s Anatomy actor has exited on bad terms with creatives. Isaiah Washington and Katherine Heigl, original actors on the show, both had quite public exits as Dr. Preston Burke and Dr. Izzie Stevens back in the day.
But, like they say, the show must go on. And that’s exactly what the show has done and is doing when it returns for Season 18 on September 30. In the meantime, fans may find closure from all of this news by remembering that, last season, Dempsey returned to the series for those famous beach scenes in Meredith’s mind. Apparently, those scenes were healing for everyone.
“It was a second chance thing,” an ABC executive told Rice at the time. “Shonda likes a comeback.”
How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy drops September 21.
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