Why Patrick Dempsey Really Left Grey's Anatomy, According To Patrick Dempsey

derek grey's anatomy

Losing something after having it around for eleven years is always going to be a difficult process, even when that something is a TV character. The dust has long settled on Grey's Anatomy in the aftermath of Derek Sheperd's death last year, but some fans are still sensitive about it. Perhaps it will make everyone feel a little bit better about it now that actor Patrick Dempsey has come out and said the reasoning behind him leaving the show was that he'd simply been there too long already. In his words:

I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule. It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier. I stayed a bit longer than I should have.

Eleven stable years at a job is an accomplishment, especially when that job is in Hollywood. And while it might be hard for many to think about anyone wanting to leave any kind of cushy gig, there were clearly simmering problems happening behind the scenes that led to him feeling he'd been there too long. Rumors of issues between Patrick Dempsey and creator Shonda Rhimes were floating around in the months before Derek's demise, leading to some awkward minced-word interviews and reactions at the time, but things never quite boiled over to pandemonium like they did between Rhimes and Katherine Heigl.

As Patrick Dempsey put it to People, the money might be there, but it isn't always worth it if you have to pass on scheduling your life to someone else for so long. Being locked into the network drama production calendar doesn't allow for too many alternatives, and I guess enough was enough. He said that he and Rhimes came to the agreement on him leaving behind closed doors without making the news public.

It was clear we were both ready. But we kept it very quiet. I knew he was going to be gone, but I didn't know how she was going to handle it. Shonda just said, I'm going to do it in a really good way and she did her thing.

At least the shocking reveal adhered to Dempsey's schedule. Derek's death by semi-combined-with-hospital-error wasn't exactly the most honorable way to send McDreamy off of the show, but it certainly cemented Dempsey's absence in a way that no one could renege on the deal. Of course, people who understand TV know that the character could always return in some way, but the actor made it pretty clear in a recent interview that it won't happen.

Patrick Dempsey is currently keeping himself busy promoting the upcoming comedy sequel Bridget Jones' Baby, which comes out Friday, September 16. He's also got the in-development drama Micronesian Blues happening at Cinemax with Banshee creator Jonathan Tropper. He was only announced as a producer for the series, but one can hope Dempsey could shed his network image for a gritty cable drama in the future.

Meanwhile, his former home Grey's Anatomy will be back for Season 13 on Thursday, September 22, at 8:00 p.m. ET. To see when everything else is coming to TV later this year, check out our fall TV schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.