Patrick Dempsey Teases How Long His Grey's Anatomy Return Will Last

During an Ellen DeGeneres Show interview, Patrick Dempsey was asked how many more episodes he'll appear in alongside Ellen Pompeo on Grey's Anatomy.

By Elyse Dupre Nov 18, 2020 3:54 PMTags

Want more Patrick Dempsey? Well, you're in luck.

Less than a week after he shocked Grey's Anatomy fans by returning for the season 17 premiere, the 54-year-old actor appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and teased whether he'd be making any future appearances on the medical drama.

When Ellen DeGeneres asked the star how many more episodes he'll be in, Dempsey didn't give a straight answer. Although, he suggested this wasn't the last time fans would see McDreamy. 

"I'm not sure how many," he replied during the Nov. 18 episode. "I know I'm throughout this season. He comes back to visit."

ABC already confirmed Dempsey will appear in this week's episode, so fans can hopefully learn more after last week's surprising end.

In case you missed it, the Nov. 12 season premiere concluded with Dempsey's Derek Shepherd reuniting with Ellen Pompeo's Meredith Grey on a beach in a dream-like sequence, making it the first time he'd been on the show since his character's death in 2015.

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The scene took place shortly after Meredith was found collapsed in a parking lot at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Earlier in the episode, fans watched the hospital's team face challenges amid the global coronavirus pandemic, including not having enough PPE and coping with the number of COVID-19 deaths.

As for how the idea for his return came about, Dempsey said he reached out to Pompeo to meet up over the summer.

"We were like, 'What can we do to get people to wear masks? How can we make an impact here?'" he recalled. "We hadn't spoken in quite some time. So, we're playing catch-up and she goes, 'What do you think about coming back onto the show? Here's our idea of what we want to do for season 17.'"

Naturally, he was game. "I was like, 'What a great opportunity for people and how great it would be for the fans really to see everybody reunited in this sort of bizarre way,'" he added. "And to the credit of the writers, [showrunner] Krista [Vernoff] came up with this concept where I would visit her in her COVID dream."

However, his return was top-secret, with just Pompeo, Vernoff, directors Debbie Allen and Kevin McKidd and a handful of people at ABC knowing. "That was it," he told DeGeneres. "And no one knew until I showed up on set that day. And then we were really concerned that someone would take a picture, or it would get out somehow. But we managed to keep it a secret, which was pretty phenomenal."


For Dempsey, the response has been "overwhelming and very moving."

"It was nice for it to be able to work out this way," he continued. "I mean, there are so many souls that we have lost right now, the thought of having angels around us is very comforting, certainly to me."


Showrunner Vernoff recently spoke about Dempsey and Pompeo's reunion during an interview with Deadline. "There have been studies about how intense our dream life has been," she explained of her inspiration. "In the pandemic, people are having really intense dreams because of the lockdown. We're not getting enough stimulation, and so, it's happening in our dreams. So, it started as that. It started as, how do we give people some escape?"

Shortly after, the entire scene came together for her. "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," Vernoff continued. "And she said, let's get Patrick. Even in my most excitable dream life, that thought hadn't occurred to me as an option, and there it was."

Fans can see how this season plays out by watching Grey's Anatomy Thursday nights on ABC.

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