Patrick Dempsey is opening up about his shocking return to “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursday’s season 17 premiere, which he signed onto partially “to give some comfort in this time of uncertainty,” the actor told Deadline.
The Screen Actors Guild award-winner said that “Grey’s” star, and Dempsey’s wife on the show, Ellen Pompeo asked him to catch up and “it was a great opportunity to … say, OK, what can we do for all the frontline responders” amid the coronavirus pandemic — which the show is also tackling.
“I’ve been tracking what ‘Grey’s’ had been doing with giving masks, and making sure that people had the right equipment, and it came from that place — OK, what can we do to make people feel better, to give some comfort in this time of uncertainty, and that’s how it began,” recalled the “Can’t Buy Me Love” star, 54.
The “wonderful” experience of heading back to the show, on which he played neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy) for the first decade of the show, saw Dempsey return in a dream sequence.
While contending with a spike of COVID-related deaths at Grey Sloan Memorial, Meredith (Pompeo) collapses in the parking lot and in a dream, sees Derek — who was killed off in the season 11 finale — standing on a beach.
Showrunner Krista Vernoff credited the sequence to the “intense … dream life” seen in studies about the pandemic.
“It started as, how do we give people some escape,” Vernoff told Deadline. "I had this imagining of a beach motif throughout the season, and I called Ellen, and I said, what if we bring back, I don’t know, some dead character that you could dream of on the beach, that would be so fun for the fans.
“And she said, ‘Let’s get Patrick,’” Vernoff recalled.
“It was really enjoyable,” Dempsey said of getting back into the role. “It was really exciting, and fun, and it was great to see everybody. … There’s much more diversity within the crew. There was a nice balance, too, of equality that I was seeing.”
“Patrick and I have this chemistry, where I think, even from when we first met, for some reason it just felt like we’ve known each other for a hundred years, and it’s just the same feeling,” said Pompeo.