Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Terrorizing the Set’ Led to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Ouster, Producer Says

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Patrick Dempsey’s Season 11 exit from “Grey’s Anatomy” came amid “HR issues” that weren’t “sexual in any way” and instances of Dempsey — who played Derek “McDreamy” Shepard, the love interest of Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey — “terrorizing the set” of the ABC medical drama, an executive producer from the show says in the upcoming book, “How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy.”

In an excerpt from author Lynette Rice’s unauthorized “Grey’s” guide, which will be released Sept. 21, published by The Hollywood Reporter, James D. Parriott says series creator Shonda Rhimes “needed an OG to come in as sort of a showrunner for fourteen episodes,” which is what brought him back to “Grey’s” to help in the final days of Dempsey’s tenure there. 

“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 says in the excerpt. “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.”

Regarding his behavior on set at that time, Dempsey is quoted in the excerpt from “How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy” to as saying: “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. 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.”

“Grey’s” producer Jeannine Renshaw says in THR’s excerpt from Rice’s book that when Rhimes “finally witnessed” Dempsey’s alleged behavior, “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,” Renshaw says. “Him and Ellen. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”

Dempsey was ultimately killed off “Grey’s Anatomy” toward the end of Season 11, though he reprised the role of Derek in the recently aired Season 17, coming to Meredith several times during her season-long COVID-induced dream that takes place on a beach. But Parriott said multiple plans for dealing with the tension on set were worked out before it was decided that killing Derek in a car crash was the way to go.

“We had three different scenarios that we actually had to break because we didn’t know until I think about three days before he came back to set which one we were going to go with,” Parriott says in the excerpt. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to negotiate his way out of it. We had a whole story line where we were going to keep him in Washington, D.C., so we could separate him from the rest of the show. He would not have to work with Ellen again. Then we had the one where he comes back, doesn’t die, and we figure out what Derek’s relationship with Meredith would be. Then there was the one we did. It was kind of crazy. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to negotiate his way out of it. It was ultimately decided that just bringing him back was going to be too hard on the other actors. The studio just said it was going to be more trouble than it was worth and decided to move on.”

ABC and “Grey’s Anatomy” studio ABC Signature declined to comment on this story. Representatives for Dempsey and Shondaland did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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