‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Shonda Rhimes Gave ABC an Ultimatum That Led to Patrick Dempsey’s Exit

Derek Shepherd was one of the most beloved characters on  Grey’s Anatomy. Fans thought he and  Meredith Grey were endgame, so when he was suddenly killed off in season 11, people were shocked. There have always been rumors floating around as to why Patrick Dempsey’s character made such a sudden exit from the show. Now, a new book is revealing everything in detail.

Patrick Dempsey stars as Derek Shepherd in 'Grey's Anatomy'
Patrick Dempsey stars as Derek Shepherd in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Bob D’Amico/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Patrick wasn’t a pleasure to work with on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

 In the new book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, author Lynette Rice spoke to cast and crew members to get a number of inside secrets as to what was going on behind the scenes of the acclaimed show. When it came to Dempsey, the truth of his exit was a bit shocking.

According to Rice, executive producer James D. Parriott had to be brought on by creator Shonda Rhimes because of Dempsey.

“Shonda needed an OG to come in as sort of a showrunner for fourteen episodes,” Parriott said in the excerpt published by THR. “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,” Parriott continued.”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.”

Ellen Pompeo couldn’t work with him

Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith Grey and is arguably the backbone of the show, was also having a difficult time working with her on-screen love.

“There were times where Ellen was frustrated with Patrick and she would get angry that he wasn’t working as much,” executive producer Jeannine Renshaw said. “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.”

There were times when Dempsey would show understanding, though.

“When I brought it up to Patrick, I would say, ‘Look around you. These people have been here since 6:30 a.m.’ He would go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He would get it. It’s just that actors tend to see things from their own perspective,” she explained.

Shonda’s ultimatum was the end of Patrick Dempsey on ‘Grey’s Anatomy

The tensions on the show grew so great that something had to be done. According to Renshaw, Rhimes eventually told ABC that Dempsey had to leave or she would.

“Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show,” Renshaw said. “Him and Ellen. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”

Ultimately, that was why Derek had to be killed off. According to writer Stacy McKee, there was no way that the character could leave the show without dying.

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