On September 16, The Hollywood Reporter released an excerpt of Lynette Rice’s oral history of the show’s most dramatic moments behind the scenes. Specifically, this chapter of How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy is devoted to the “HR problems” that reportedly led to Dempsey’s exit from the series—and Dr. Derek Shepherd’s devastating death. Rice spoke with co-stars and exec producers that were present at the time and, reader, things are about to get messy.
According to the excerpt, executive producer James D. Parriott was specifically brought back on board to oversee Dempsey’s final days on set. “Shonda needed an OG to come in as sort of showrunner for 14 episodes. 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,” Parriott said. “He had this hold on the set where he knew he could stop production and scare people. 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.”
Producer Jeannine Renshaw spoke specifically about the tension between Dempsey and his costar, Ellen Pompeo. “There were times where Ellen was frustrated with Patrick and she would get angry that he wasn’t working as much,” Renshaw told Rice. “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. 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.’”
Renshaw added, “He’s like a kid. He’s so high energy and would go, ‘What’s happening next?’ He literally goes out of his skin, sitting and waiting. He wants to be out driving his race car or doing something fun. He’s the kid in class who wants to go to recess.”
Ultimately, though Renshaw says the “final straw” for creator Shonda Rhimes was witnessing Dempsey’s complaints on set. “Shonda had to say to the network, ‘If he doesn’t go, I go,’” Renshaw recalled. “Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show. Him and Ellen. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”
One longtime crew member who chose to remain anonymous told Rice that Dempsey was a “Lone Ranger” amongst “rogue actresses” (what does that even mean?). Read what he had to say in full and please, mind the misogyny:
According to Rice’s retelling of Patrick Dempsey’s final day on the set of Grey’s Anatomy, there was no loving sendoff. “Dempsey completed his final hours of shooting on a rainy night. There was no goodbye party, no goodbye cake,” she writes.
As Dempsey tells her, “I very quietly left. It was beautiful. It was raining, which was really touching. I got in my Panamera, got in rush-hour traffic, and two hours later I was home.”
Read the entire excerpt from How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy here.