Still not over Patrick Dempsey‘s departure from Grey’s Anatomy? Us either. For 11 years, die-hard fans of the medical drama — from the brilliant mind of show creator, head writer, and executive producer Shonda Rhimes — watched as Patrick’s character Dr. Derek Shepherd cared for his patients, provided massive insight on life and death, and fell deeper and deeper in love with his onscreen wife, Dr. Meredith Grey. That’s why it was so shocking when Patrick, 51, decided to depart from the show just a year before his contract was up.
Dubbed “McDreamy,” Patrick revealed the decision to part ways was mutual. Shonda apparently agreed that it was time to him to focus on other things. After 11 years, the toll of the rigorous filming schedule began affect Patrick, his wife Jillian Fink, and his three children Tallula, Darby, and Sullivan. “I’m very grateful for Grey’s Anatomy,” he told People. “It’s given me the opportunity to do everything. But at the same time, there was a cost.”
“It had been long enough,” he continued of his decade-long commitment to the series. “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.” With his choice to leave, of course, came the question — What does Shonda do with his character? For the writer and long-time showrunner, the answer was obvious and Patrick agreed that McDreamy would have to be killed off.
“The decision to have the character die the way that he did was not a difficult one in the sense of what were the options?” Shonda has said. “Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith, and leave her high and dry, and what was that going to mean? That was going to suggest that the love was not true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie and McDreamy wasn’t McDreamy. For me, that was untenable.”
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With the prospect of McDreamy walking out on Meredith — played by Ellen Pompeo — as an impossible, unrealistic option, the only other solution was death. Derek met his match in a tragic car accident in Season 11, his undeniable love for Meredith unquestioned.
“Meredith and Derek’s love had to remain Meredith and Derek’s love. As painful as it was for me as a storyteller, because I had never really thought that was going to happen, it preserved what felt true to me, was that Derek was going to have to die in order for that love to remain honest,” Shonda continued. “Because I really couldn’t have the idea that he just turned out to be a bad guy who walked out on his wife and kids be a true story. To me, it felt like that was the only way to make Meredith and Derek’s magic remain true and forever frozen in time.” So with more free time on Patrick’s hands, what has the actor and father-of-three been dedicating his life to in his post-Grey’s days? The actor says, finding his cause.
After Patrick’s mom Amanda Dempsey was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Patrick focused much of his time and efforts on launching a project called The Dempsey Center, a center where cancer patients can receive “quality of life services” that deal with the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual effects cancer can cause. Out of the Center, The Dempsey Challenge was born. The Challenge encourages participants to either walk, run, or ride for the cause.
Aside from being the face of The Dempsey Center, the actor has been splitting his time between his two residences in Malibu, CA and Jacksonville, TX. He also starred in Bridget Jones’ Baby, which debuted in September 2016 and has been focusing a lot on family, according to the many photos he shares on his Instagram account.
Though he’s been busy with other projects, Patrick and his former Grey’s Anatomy co-star Kate Walsh recently reunited in a new commercial for insurance company Cigna — and we absolutely loved seeing Derek and Addison Montgomery back together again! “Kate’s fun, and her comic timing is amazing,” Patrick said of the cute get-together. “We were always playful on set anyway, and then we would get serious, but this was fun just to be playful and to make each other laugh.”