He may have played McDreamy on screen, but Patrick Dempsey was apparently more of a McNightmare for some of the cast and crew of Grey’s Anatomy!
In an excerpt from author Lynette Rice’s upcoming book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, exec producer James D. Parriott accuses the actor of “terrorizing the set” of the hit medical drama, and claims the series heartthrob’s Season 11 exit came amid “HR issues”! (He clarifies the issues were not “sexual in any way.”)
In an excerpt from the unauthorized guide published by The Hollywood Reporter, Parriott says he returned to Grey’s to help in the final days of Dempsey’s stint there because series creator Shonda Rhimes “needed an OG to come in as sort of a showrunner for fourteen episodes.”
The exec producer doesn’t mince his words when recalling what was going on behind the scenes with Dempsey, who was apparently giving other cast members “all sorts of PTSD” due to his behavior. He shares:
“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.”
Geez! He explains how it was the beginning of the end:
“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.”
Elsewhere in the excerpt, Grey’s producer Jeannine Renshaw says that when Rhimes “finally witnessed” Dempsey’s alleged behavior, “that was the final straw”:
“Shonda had to say to the network, ‘If he doesn’t go, I go.’ Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show. Him and Ellen [Pompeo]. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”
What turned this sweetheart into an alleged diva? The grueling work schedule likely had something to do with it. Dempsey is quoted in the excerpt as saying:
“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. But you have to be grateful, because you’re well compensated, so you can’t really complain because you don’t really have a right. You don’t have control over your schedule. So, you have to just be flexible.”
The 55-year-old was eventually killed off the series toward the end of Season 11, but he ultimately reprised his role in the recently aired Season 17 in Meredith Grey’s season-long COVID-induced beach dream.
Parriott says that before the producers decided killing off Patrick’s character was the best route, multiple plans for dealing with the tension on set were worked out. He recalls:
“We had three different scenarios that we actually had to break because we didn’t know until I think about three days before he came back to set which one we were going to go with. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to negotiate his way out of it. We had a whole story line where we were going to keep him in Washington, D.C., so we could separate him from the rest of the show. He would not have to work with Ellen again.”
Oh dang! Were he and Ellen Pompeo in particular not getting along? Hmm…
“Then we had the one where he comes back, doesn’t die, and we figure out what Derek’s relationship with Meredith would be. Then there was the one we did. It was kind of crazy. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to negotiate his way out of it. It was ultimately decided that just bringing him back was going to be too hard on the other actors. The studio just said it was going to be more trouble than it was worth and decided to move on.”
Sounds like everything worked out for the best! But, yeesh, there was certainly no shortage of drama on the set of this hit drama, huh??