Grey's Anatomy Bombshell: How Patrick Dempsey's 'Terrorizing' Behavior Led To McDreamy Death

Grey's Anatomy Derek Shepherd smiles slightly at McSteamy.

The Grey’s Anatomy drama doesn’t end when the cameras stop rolling. Ever since Isaiah Washington’s alleged use of a homophobic slur led to his exit from the series, Shondavision fans have been treated to behind-the-scenes headlines almost as shocking as what’s happening on their screens. And, while fans might have been privy to some of the tension involving Patrick Dempsey ahead of his Season 11 departure, a new unauthorized book makes some pretty strong claims regarding “HR issues” with the actor that resulted in the decision to kill off Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd.

How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy by Lynette Rice is an unauthorized account of the ABC series that claims to reveal new details of some of the medical drama’s most prominent character exits. THR was given an exclusive excerpt of the book, including the chapter involving Patrick Dempsey. The excerpt contains quotes from the cast and crew, including Dempsey himself. The bombshell takeaway regarding Dempsey's on-set behavior comes from executive producer James D. Parriott:

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. 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.

James D. Parriott served as an executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy for 49 total episodes. While initially leaving the show in 2006, he was brought back in 2015, reportedly to oversee Patrick Dempsey’s exit. Parriott’s comments and the excerpt as a whole don’t seem to be an attempt to demonize Dempsey — there are tons of compliments from his co-stars as well — but Jeannine Renshaw, an executive producer on 72 episodes from 2011-2014, similarly described some of the frustrations, particularly in regard to series star Ellen Pompeo.

There were times where Ellen 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.

Patrick Dempsey said he was in a tough situation, being grateful to have such a long-standing role with a universally adored character, but as an actor, he admitted he grew increasingly impatient with the filming schedule:

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.

Once the decision was made for Patrick Dempsey to leave the ABC medical drama, James D. Parriott said they talked about three different scenarios for Derek Shepherd: he could stay in D.C., he could come back to Meredith in Seattle, or he could die. Stacy McKee, a producer on Grey’s Anatomy from Seasons 4-14, said there was only one option that seemed to work:

I don’t think there was any way to exit him without him dying. He and Meredith were such an incredibly bonded couple at that point. It would be completely out of character if he left his kids. There was no exit that would honor that character other than if he were to die.

How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy hits shelves September 21, just nine days ahead of Grey’s Anatomy Season 18, which will premiere at 9 p.m. ET, Thursday, September 30 on ABC. Check out our 2021 fall TV schedule to find out the upcoming premiere dates for all of your favorite shows.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.