Patrick Dempsey shocked fans when his character Derek Shepherd was killed off on Grey’s Anatomy in 2015 after 10 years on the show, and now he’s shedding more light on exactly why he felt it was right to call time on his gig with the long-running ABC medical drama. Entertainment Tonight Canada reports that the actor opened up about his decision to leave in a new interview with The I Paper, where he admitted that he just knew it was time to go.
When asked about his sudden departure – which was kept very under wraps by the cast and crew – Dempsey didn’t reveal if it was his decision or the writer’s decision for him to leave, but did admit that his departure was down to a struggle to keep the storyline so fresh after a decade on the air.
“Look, 10 years is a long time to be on any show. It’s very hard to keep the storylines intriguing, especially on a network show with 25 episodes a year,” Patrick told the outlet of his shocking exit as one of the show’s most popular and notable characters. “So for me, it was time to go… it’s nice to move on and have new challenges.”
He also touched on a potential return to the show somewhere down the line, despite Derek dying during his final appearance on the show three years ago.
“They want me to come back to the show,” Patrick admitted of the show’s very passionate fans calling for him to return despite Derek’s death, “which, given what happened to Derek, is really quite funny.”
The actor appeared as Doctor Derek Shepherd, also known by fans as “McDreamy,” for 10 years between 2005 and 2015, appearing in an impressive 252 episodes. The character was then killed off after he was involved in a fatal car crash in the episode “How To Save A Life.”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2015, Patrick admitted that there “wasn’t a lot of discussion” when it came to him leaving the show and how.
“It happened very quickly,” Patrick told the site of his departure, adding that it “just sort of unfolded in a very organic way.”
Dempsey then continued, “the way everything was unfolding in a very organic way, it was like, okay! This was obviously the right time. And then it was a question of…”
“That’s a question for [showrunner Shonda Rhimes],” he then added at the time of why he was leaving Grey’s Anatomy after a decade playing the character.
Though Patrick hasn’t spoken too much about leaving the series since, earlier this year, his co-star Ellen Pompeo – who played his on-screen wife Meredith Grey – described him waving goodbye to Grey Sloan Memorial as being a “tumultuous end” in a very candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
She also called Dempsey leaving a “defining moment” for her in terms of her salary as she confessed that she received a pay increase after the actor walked away from the series.