It’s decision time for Patrick Dempsey.
As he approaches the decade mark with Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey must soon decide whether he wants to continue playing Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd beyond the ABC hit’s upcoming 10th season or hang up his scrubs and pursue his true passion — racing — full time.
In the following Q&A, Dempsey offers an update on his current contract talks, reveals how (and when) he found out that co-star Sandra Oh was leaving, teases the show’s landmark 200th episode, and previews his other TV gig — the four-part Velocity docu-series Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans (premiering Wednesday at 10/9c).
TVLINE | What do you think your fans will be most surprised to learn while watching Racing Le Mans.
We don’t hide anything. We’re very open about the triumphs and we’re very clear about the mistakes. It shows the journey and the learning process. And it will hopefully bring some awareness to the history of racing in this country, and the importance of what Le Mans represents for endurance racing.
TVLINE | How involved in the editing were you?
Very involved. It’s hard to keep any kind of objectivity though. I don’t particularly enjoy the process because it’s me. There’s nothing to hide behind, other than the racing. But we have good discussions about what’s really right for telling this story and what the honest approach is.
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TVLINE | What are some common misconceptions about racing and, in particular, racers?
I don’t think people quite understand road racing in this country. Oval racing and NASCAR have overwhelmed it. But road racing was a very big part of this country [starting] after World War II. People don’t really understand the depth of the history of road racing, and the kind of commitment and focus and luck and passion it takes to be able to win a race.
TVLINE | Would you at some point like to pursue racing full time?
I would love to. It depends on sponsorships. It depends on not being on a show. It’s kind of amazing, the [commitment] level I have right now with the amount of responsibility I have with the show and everything else.
TVLINE | Is creating a little more flexibility in your Grey’s schedule important to you as you consider signing on for Season 11?
Everything is open to a conversation at this point. Grey’s has been such a remarkable ride. Shonda [Rhimes] has been incredibly supportive. I enjoy Grey’s more than ever in many ways. Our relationships have grown considerably. We’ve all matured over the last 10 years. So it would be a shame to end this.
TVLINE | What was your reaction when you heard Sandra was leaving?
We found out right at the end of the table read for the 200th episode. She took the cast aside individually and said, “I’m going to leave the show.” With any member of the show, especially the original cast, it’s always sad to see someone leave.
TVLINE | How was the table read for Episode 200?
It was a blast. Everybody was really celebrating the achievement. There was openness and a joy in the entire room. It was a remarkable day.
TVLINE | Any teases about the episode?
We’re not allowed to talk about it. You know Shonda! [Laughs]