Grey’s Anatomy fans were thrilled to see the return of Dr. Derek Shepherd, a.k.a. McDreamy, on last night’s Season 17 premiere, but that doesn’t mean Patrick Dempsey is sticking around for good. Long-time viewers will remember his character’s heart-breaking death in 2015, when Dempsey left the series after 11 seasons and countless episodes.
While we tearfully said goodbye to McDreamy five years ago in his final episode,”You’re My Home,” his cameo had us wondering: why did Dempsey leave Grey’s Anatomy? The actor gave some clues as to why in a 2016 interview with People when he told the outlet, “I’m very grateful for Grey’s Anatomy. It’s given me the opportunity to do everything. But at the same time, there was a cost.”
Dempsey explained that he loved working on the show, but it also kept him away from his family. The actor, who has been married to his second wife Jillian Fink since 1999, has three children: daughter Talula and two twin boys, Darby and Sullivan. “I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule,” Dempsey said.
The actor even admitted that he stayed on Grey’s Anatomy for a few more seasons than he would have liked to. “It had been long enough,” he said. “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.”
But before he left the show, Dempsey was sure to get the approval of Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, telling People his departure was a mutual decision. “It was clear we were both ready,” he explained. When news of Dempsey’s exit became public, Rhimes gave an official statement to Entertainment Weekly. “I never imagined saying goodbye to our ‘McDreamy’—then again, none of us here at Grey’s Anatomy imagined any of the many journeys this show has taken us on,” she said.
Rhimes opened up about losing Dempsey during the 2015 Summer TCA press tour, per Distractify. “It wasn’t easy or fun, it is never easy or fun,” she said at the time. “We’ve been working really hard for a long time together. We’re family. Those choices and those decisions are never easy for any of us.”
New episodes of Grey’s Anatomy air Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC, and you can catch the latest episodes on Hulu one day after they premiere.
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