‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Rob Lowe Doesn’t Regret Leaving Derek Shepherd To Patrick Dempsey

Grey’s Anatomy fans know Patrick Dempsey was born to play Derek Shepherd — aka McDreamy — but the part almost went to Rob Lowe. The Parks and Recreation star recently opened up about turning down the role. But, it doesn’t look like Lowe regrets the decision, even if passing up Grey’s Anatomy might’ve cost him $70 million. 

Rob Lowe almost played Derek Shepherd on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger on ‘Parks and Recreation’ Season 6 and Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 11
Left: Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger on ‘Parks and Recreation’ Season 6 | Colleen Hayes/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images, Right: Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 11 | Kelsey McNeal/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Back in 2011, Lowe opened up about turning down Grey’s Anatomy in his memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends. The actor revealed that he was already set to star in the CBS series, Dr. Vegas, when producers from ABC reached out. And while Lowe “loved” the writing of Grey’s Anatomy, he decided on Dr. Vegas because of the network.

“I agreed to meet with the people making Grey’s Anatomy,” Lowe wrote. “I had read it and loved it — the writing was crisp, real and very entertaining — and it’s always been a good idea to hear out talented people. ‘We would be thrilled if you would play Dr. Derek Shepherd,’ they said right off the bat. I was torn. Grey’s was a much better script; in fact, there was no comparison.”

He later added, “Year after year after year, all of ABC’s new dramas flopped. CBS was on a hot streak that continues to this day. Although Grey’s was a much better script, I chose Dr. Vegas. The odds were just too stacked.”

Meanwhile, Lowe recalled passing up Grey’s Anatomy when stopping by The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2019. The actor also hinted that the decision cost him $70 million. And apparently, Lowe’s wife, Sheryl Berkoff, will never let him forget it.

“Well, I don’t so much think about it as my wife thinks about it. A lot,” Lowe said when asked about the one role that slipped away. “It probably cost me, conservatively, $70 million. It’s a little TV show called Grey’s Anatomy. My wife will not let me live this down.”

Then when Lowe admitted he decided to play Dr. Billy Grant in Dr. Vegas over Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, the audience just laughed. In case you need a refresher, Dr. Vegas ran for a month before getting canceled on CBS. Meanwhile, Grey’s Anatomy is still airing and in its 17th season.

Rob Lowe reveals why he doesn’t regret turning down ‘Grey’s Anatomy’


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In an interview with Variety from February 2021, Lowe revealed how he really felt about turning down Grey’s Anatomy. And while the actor might have lost out on the Shondaland medical drama, it doesn’t look like he regrets the decision.

“This is what longevity, experience and recovery give you. There are no accidents,” Lowe said. “Whatever decision you come to, if you come to it from the right place, it’s never wrong.”

Then the actor admitted that Dempsey was a better fit for the role of McDreamy. “Me in that part isn’t as interesting as Patrick in that part,” Lowe said. “If it’d been me (the fans) wouldn’t have called me ‘McDreamy,’ they would have called me Rob Lowe.”

Lowe also pointed out that if he accepted McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, he wouldn’t have been able to play the beloved Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation. “Had I done Grey’s, I wouldn’t have been in Parks and Recreation,” Lowe said. “That alone for me is enough.”

In all honesty, it’d be interesting to see Lowe play Derek on Grey’s Anatomy. But, as Meredith Grey would say, some things are going to work out as if they were destined to happen, as if they were just meant to be.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays nights on ABC.