In Grey’s Anatomy Season 11, fans watched as Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) lost the love of her life, Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). During the episode “How to Save a Life,” Derek gets hit by a semi-truck while sitting in his car. After being transferred to another hospital, the acclaimed neurosurgeon died of a brain injury.
Derek’s death marked the end of the “MerDer” love story and Patrick’s 11-year reign. However, the actor has bounced back with multiple projects outside of the medical drama.
Where is Patrick Dempsey now?
After choosing to leave Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick continued acting in several films and TV shows. In 2015, he starred as Jack opposite Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Baby. Following the role, Patrick appeared in a short film, Red Nose Day Actually, and The Bible Collection: Jeremiah. In 2020, the Can’t Buy Me Love actor graced the small screen in the 10-part series Devils. He also signed on for the Enchanted sequel, Disenchanted, as Amy Adams’ love interest.
In the years since his Grey’s Anatomy exit, Patrick hasn’t shied away from embracing Derek Shepherd’s impact on pop culture. The actor put back on his medical jacket in 2017 when he reunited with his TV ex-wife, Kate Walsh (Addison Montgomery) to film a commercial for Cigna.
Then, Patrick shocked many fans when he returned to Grey’s Anatomy in Season 17. During the season, Meredith sees Derek while she’s in a coma from coronavirus (COVID-19). Although some Grey’s fans were thrilled to see MerDer again, Patrick confirmed the cameo was Derek’s final sendoff.
“I thought it was a beautiful way to close it,” he told Variety in April 2021. “The intention was to really give people some hope because they are such an iconic couple.”
Why did Patrick Dempsey leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’
Following Patrick’s Grey’s Anatomy departure, many fans wondered why he chose to say goodbye to his much-beloved character. In the book How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, producer James D. Parriott claimed Patrick didn’t actually leave on his own accord. According to James, the actor was often “terrorizing the set,” and the situation became so bad that he and Shonda Rhimes “were at each other’s throats." He then said Patrick constantly complained about the show’s work environment.
In the same book, Patrick admitted the grueling hours on set ultimately affected his decision to leave. Working on the show affected his marriage to makeup artist Jill Dempsey and his relationships with their three children, Talula, Darby, and Sullivan. Before Patrick left the show, Jill filed for divorce in 2014, but the pair were able to work things out.
"It’s 10 months, 15 hours a day," Patrick said in an excerpt sent to Entertainment Weekly. "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 11 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," he continued. "You don’t have control over your schedule. So, you have to just be flexible."
Despite the alleged drama, Shonda shared at the 2015 Summer TCA press tour that she and Patrick mutually decided to part ways after having “a lot of discussions about it.” She also added the choice to see him (and Derek) go “wasn't easy or fun.”
Catch new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.