Patrick Dempsey’s stunning exit from “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2015 came after his mood on the set was less than dreamy, according to a new book about the show.
In an excerpt in The Hollywood Reporter from Lynette Rice’s upcoming book, “How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy,” former “Grey’s” executive producer James D. Parriott says that things had reached a boiling point in season 11 before Dempsey’s Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd died in a shocking twist to fans.
“There were HR issues,” Parriott says in the book. “It wasn’t sexual in any way. (Dempsey) sort of was terrorizing the set. Some cast members had all sorts of PTSD with him. 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 (show creator) Shonda (Rhimes) were at each other’s throats.”
The book, which comes out on Sept. 21, features interviews with more than 80 cast and crewmembers from the long-running hit show. Another former executive producer, Jeannine Renshaw, said there was also tension between Dempsey, 55, and star, Ellen Pompeo, 51, who played his wife on the show.
“There were times where Ellen was frustrated with Patrick and she would get angry that he wasn’t working as much,” Renshaw says in the book. “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 six thirty a.m.’ He would go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He would get it.”
Dempsey admitted to being burned out by that point.
“It’s ten months, fifteen hours a day,” he says in the book. “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 eleven 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. You don’t have control over your schedule. So, you have to just be flexible.”
A crew member says Dempsey contemplated leaving a season earlier with co-star Sandra Oh but returned for the money, which Dempsey confirmed in the book. Things eventually came to a head between Dempsey and Rhimes.
“I think Shonda finally witnessed it herself, and that was the final straw,” Renshaw said. “Shonda had to say to the network, ‘If he doesn’t go, I go.’ Nobody wanted him to leave, because he was the show. Him and Ellen. Patrick is a sweetheart. It messes you up, this business.”
ABC Signature, Shondaland and Dempsey did not respond to TODAY’s request for comment about the book’s revelations. ABC declined to comment.
“It was just a natural progression with the way the story was unfolding,” Dempsey told EW after his departure in 2015.”It was like, OK! This was obviously the right time.”
Pompeo admitted there was “toxicity” on the set while talking last year with Dax Shepard on his “Armchair Expert” podcast, but did not say it was because of any one specific person. However, Dempsey’s exit did light a fire under her and provide an opening for change.
“When Patrick left, I had something to prove,” Pompeo said on the podcast. “He left season 11 and then I was renegotiating season 12, so I could have left, because the man left, which is not a story I want to tell.
“After Patrick left I said, ‘I am going to stay, I am going to prove that they need me, but then also I really wanted to change the story of the experience of the show,” she continued. “And I wanted to see if we could turn the culture around, and we could make the set a happy place because it really had never been.”
The book excerpt also describes how they filmed episode 21 of season 11 in which Dempsey’s character shockingly dies. They shot it at an abandoned hospital in Hawthorne, California, rather than at the regular studio in Los Feliz.
Actors in that episode had to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep the explosive secret that Derek Shepherd was being killed off the show by a car accident.
“We shot at this closed-down hospital that was absolutely creepy haunted,” costume designer Mimi Melgaard says in the book. “All the scenes there were so sad anyway, and in this yucky-feeling haunted hospital? It was really weird. His whole last episode was really tough.”
Fellow actors in the episode remembered Dempsey as being “very kind” during the filming, but it was a strange farewell with little fanfare.
“I very quietly left,” Dempsey said. “It was beautiful. It was raining, which was really touching.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: