Rob Lowe Thinks He Lost $70 Million Turning Down Grey's Anatomy McDreamy Role

Rob Lowe Patrick Dempsey Grey's Anatomy

Would Grey's Anatomy's Mer-Der have been one of TV's most iconic couples if Rob Lowe had starred opposite Ellen Pompeo? Lowe turned down the role of Derek Shepherd, with Patrick Dempsey famously playing the "McDreamy" doc from 2005 to 2015.

Rob Lowe was recently on the "WTF With Marc Maron" podcast talking about roles he's turned down in the past, and said/joked/estimated he probably lost literally $70 million with that McDreamy decision. Here's how that part of the conversation played out:

Marc Maron: Do you turn down a lot [of roles]?Rob Lowe: A lot.Marc Maron: Is it usually small movies or just shitty projects, or you don't know, it's just project to project?Rob Lowe: Dude, I turned down Grey’s Anatomy. So it can be a monstrous...Marc Maron: For an arc or a regular thing?Rob Lowe: To play McDreamy.Marc Maron: Oh really?Rob Lowe: That probably cost me $70 million dollars. But hey it's just money. ... But listen, at the end of the day, I watched it when it came out, and when they started calling the handsome doctor 'McDreamy,' I thought, 'Yeah, that’s not for me.'

Money isn't everything, and it's not like Rob Lowe is hurting on that front. For the record, according to THR, Patrick Dempsey made about $400,000 an episode -- or about $9.6 million for a 24-episode season. Patrick Dempsey was on the show until Season 11, and he left by his own choice. If he had continue into the current Season 15 -- he'd be close to $150 million, give it take, making less in the earlier seasons and probably making even more by Season 15.

But hey it's just money.

Rob Lowe previously shared the story of how he turned down the McDreamy role in his 2011 memoir (via Us Weekly). He was already in talks for the CBS show Dr. Vegas when he met with the people making Grey's Anatomy. He loved that script, saying there was no comparison between the one for Grey's and the one for Dr. Vegas. But at that point, all of ABC's new dramas had flopped and CBS was on a hot streak. So even though he liked the Grey's script better, he went for Dr. Vegas (co-starring Amy Adams, btw) -- which only taped 10 episodes and only aired five of them before it was cancelled.

Hey, it happens. Sometimes one show looks like it'll be a hit and it goes the other way. It sounds like he's OK with his Grey's Anatomy decision, since he didn't want to be called McDreamy anyway.

Rob Lowe was already famous for films like The Outsiders, St. Elmo's Fire, and About Last Night... before finding fame as a TV star on The West Wing. That was before Dr. Vegas. After that point, he rebounded with Brothers & Sisters, Parks and Recreation, The Ginder, and Code Black.

It's interesting to think of what the chemistry between Ellen Pompeo and Rob Lowe might've been like, as Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd. Would he have stayed with the show even longer than Patrick Dempsey -- or possibly left even sooner? It's a very demanding show for actors.

Speaking of Derek Shepherd, though, the April 11 episode of Grey's Anatomy Season 15 is called "Good Shepherd," and that's when we'll meet the long-lost sister Nancy Shepherd. Amelia Shepherd and her recent more-more-than-a-hookup Link will travel to New York to operate on a patient with a severe spinal deformity, "but they’re in for more than they bargained for when Nancy Shepherd invites them to dinner at her home." Drama!

Before we get to that April 11 Episode 21, we first have Episode 19 airing this Thursday, March 28, and the Jo-meets-her-mother episode is meant to be so sensitive, ABC even issued a warning about the content. Grey's Anatomy Season 15 continues Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.