‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Patrick Dempsey Is ‘Happy’ Fans Still Call Him ‘McDreamy’

About six years have passed since Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd) left Grey’s Anatomy, and fans still remember the actor as “McDreamy.” But how does the Enchanted star feel about the nickname now? Following his extraordinary return in Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Dempsey opened up about his “McDreamy” legacy.

Why is Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) called ‘McDreamy’ on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Patrick Dempsey as Derek ‘McDreamy’ Shepherd smiling at Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey in ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘There’s No I in Team’
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Are Meredith and Derek Endgame? Season 17 Will Make You Watch Everything Differently

Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) was the first character to call Derek “McDreamy” in Grey’s Anatomy Season 1 Episode 2, titled “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” The Cardio God called out Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) for making out with Derek in the elevator in response to a “bad day.”

“This is what you do on your bad days — make out with Dr. McDreamy,” Cristina told her person.

Meanwhile, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes explained the“McDreamy” nickname in an interview with Oprah Winfrey from 2006. 

“When we were shooting the pilot, Patrick was seriously the most adorable man we’d ever seen on camera,” Rhimes said at the time. “We’d watch the monitor and think, ‘Look at his dreamy eyes!’ So we started calling him Patrick McDreamy, and it stuck.”

Patrick Dempsey left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ after Derek Shepherd died

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Giacomo Gianniotti Says Last Andrew DeLuca and Meredith Grey Scene With Ellen Pompeo Was ‘Sad’

Dempsey left in Grey’s Anatomy Season 11 when Derek was killed off. The character died following a car crash and a series of mistakes made by the Dillard Medical Center staff. Then when speaking at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in 2015, Rhimes explained the “difficult” decision to kill Derek.

“Meredith and Derek’s love had to remain Meredith and Derek’s love,” Rhimes said, per E! News. “So as painful as that was for me as a storyteller, the only way to preserve what felt true to me was that Derek was going to have to die in order for that to remain honest.”

Meanwhile, Dempsey opened up about leaving McDreamy behind in an interview with ABC News

“I think everybody was sort of surprised at how abrupt it was,” Dempsey said a year after his departure in 2016. “[But] it was time for us both to be finished…it’s hard to keep the creative energy going for 10 years.”

Patrick Dempsey on his ‘McDreamy’ nickname from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 Confirms New Jackson Avery Fan Theory

The legacy of “McDreamy” was not lost on Dempsey when he left Grey’s Anatomy. Still speaking with ABC News in 2016, the actor recognized that the nickname would probably stick for the rest of eternity.

“It’s going to be there for the rest of my life so I have to accept that as a fact,” Dempsey said. “The question will be, will I be known for anything other than that later in life, and that’s the question.”

Now, it seems the former Grey’s Anatomy cast member still embraces his “McDreamy” nickname six season after his exit.

“It is what it is,” Dempsey told The Independent in February 2021. “It’s a character that some people are just discovering for the first time. So if they see me and it makes them feel good, and my identifying that for them makes them feel validated, then I’m very happy about it.”