How Patrick Dempsey Felt About Grey's Anatomy's Big McDreamy Surprise

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Grey's Anatomy Season 17 premiere. Look away until you've caught up!

Grey's Anatomy starts every season off with a bang, and Season 17 has been no different. Last week's premiere brought fans some big drama which was very focused on what the country is going through right now, and took a look at how the uptick in patients has taken a toll on our first responders. The tricky situation led us right to Meredith collapsing toward the end of the two-hour event, and her dreaming of her late husband Derek. Now, returning star Patrick Dempsey is talking about his feelings regarding that big McDreamy surprise.

Fans of the long-running medical drama were left stunned and heartbroken when Patrick Dempsey decided to leave the series, and was killed off in Season 11. There didn't appear to be much hope of seeing anything new from Derek as Grey's went on and tried to get Meredith over the grief of losing her husband, but the Season 17 premiere brought fans a major surprise when we glimpsed Derek in the final moments. So, how did Patrick Dempsey feel about reprising his role? Here's what he told Deadline when asked if it was easy to get back into character:

It was really enjoyable. It was really exciting, and fun, and it was great to see everybody. Kevin [McKidd, who directs Episode 3] was there as well, so there was a lot of familiar faces, a lot of new faces. The dynamic behind the camera had changed. There’s much more diversity within the crew. There was a nice balance, too, of equality that I was seeing. So, culturally, there was a lot of things that were different, that I thought were very positive and very inspiring, actually.

Well, it's certainly good to hear that Patrick Dempsey enjoyed his return to the...beaches of Grey's Anatomy. While he made the choice on his own to leave his long tenure on the drama behind, there were rumors of tensions behind the scenes between himself and creator Shonda Rhimes, so it wouldn't be a total surprise to find that Dempsey wasn't going to be in any mood at all to return, even though Rhimes doesn't have an active role on the show now.

Dempsey also talked about how things behind the camera have changed over the intervening years since his departure. A lot has been said about the working environment on Grey's Anatomy, specially during the earlier seasons, and how star Ellen Pompeo, showrunner Krista Vernoff and others have worked hard to make the show a better place to work. And, it sounds like Patrick Dempsey could really see the difference in a lot of ways when he returned.

Of course, Dempsey makes his return in a very different filming environment in another notable way, with everything having to accommodate new production standards. He was also asked about seeing Pompeo in character again after so many years, and opened up about that, as well as the new filming process for Grey's:

Well, I have less eyesight than I used to, so (laughter). It was great. It was really fun, very special. it felt really comfortable, incredibly safe. The whole process, I have to say, from getting tested before even showing up to the set, the whole process in which we shot, I felt safe the whole time. You felt the crew was protected. We had the outdoor space, and it was easy.

Showrunner Krista Vernoff has promised that we'll get more than the one scene at the end of the premiere with Patrick Dempsey's Derek, and the actor also said that he's game to do even more, so fans can rest assured that there will be at least a little more of the beloved character in Season 17.

We can all see what's next for Meredith and her dream version of McDreamy when Grey's Anatomy continues on ABC, Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST. For more on what to watch in the coming weeks, check out our guide to fall TV and see what will be on early in 2021!

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Yennefer's apprentice, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.