We had the chance to chat with Patrick Dempsey, you know him best for his portrayal of Dr. Derek Shepherd in the hit show Grey’s Anatomy has earned him a 2007 Screen Actors Guild Award and the 2007 People’s Choice Award. However, his movie career is also keeping him equally in the spotlight with roles in successful films including the romantic comedy, Made Of Honor and the Disney romp, Enchanted.
With the season five DVD of Grey’s Anatomy about to be released, the man behind McDreamy explains his thoughts on creating the perfect balance between work and family. He also opens up to reveal the secret to his long and successful marriage…
What have you learned about yourself after playing this character for five years?
Patrick Dempsey: Wow, that’s a good question. When you’re working on a character for so many hours of the week, it’s easy to forget who you are. I’ve learned that you need to separate yourself from the character and not get caught up in the dynamic because you’re in it all the time. You’re working for 15 hours every day and sometimes you get confused about who you are. You spend more time being your character than you do being yourself.
How tough is it to work on a show like Grey’s Anatomy?
Patrick Dempsey: It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also really hard because you never know what your schedule is going to be. It’s hard to plan things with your family – and I find that very difficult. The stamina of it can be tough, too. It’s fun, but it’s a grind. We’re doing 24 episodes and you have no control over your life. When your wife asks you, “Can we go and have dinner together?” You have to say, “I don’t know what my schedule is. I can’t tell you.” That’s really hard.
Is it extra difficult when you have three children at home?
Patrick Dempsey: Sure. It’s tough to balance your life. For example, we didn’t get home until quite late last night – but the boys are up at 5:00 in the morning. You try to balance out a family life with a career and you try to be a husband, but three children is a lot. Anybody who has kids can tell you that. You want to make sure you’re there for those special moments with your family, but at the same time you’re trying to provide for them. It’s exhausting to try to find a balance for all of that.
Do you ever try the technique where you say to your children, “Daddy needs to work. Daddy needs to rest.”
Patrick Dempsey: That doesn’t work.
So what does work for you?
Patrick Dempsey: I don’t know. You just get them in bed with you. We’re all in bed snuggling and that’s great. The whole family is together. You know what? My daughter is much older now and you realize how quickly they grow up, so you just try to enjoy everything, even though it’s a living hell sometimes when they’re sick and they’re crying. It either brings you together with your partner or it separates you – and I think we’ve been able to negotiate those moments pretty well together. It’s a struggle. It’s hard. It’s not always wonderful.
How long have you been together with your wife?
Patrick Dempsey: We’ve been together for ten years. Ten great years. I think our relationship gets better and better every year because we work at it. Just to have any kind of a date night is an important thing when you’ve been together for so long. We had a little vacation last year for a couple of days and it was really nice to have that. We’ve got a wonderful relationship.
With such a busy life, do you ever have time to watch television?
Patrick Dempsey: I do get time to watch TV, but it’s very rare. I like shows like Nip/Tuck and Weeds. Entourage is good, too. I love Entourage.
Let’s get back to the show… What happens to Derek in season five?
Patrick Dempsey: Derek has a little crisis at one point. He steps out after losing a patient and he hides out for a while. He becomes withdrawn. He goes off on a little bit of a soul-searching bender – and then he comes out the other side with the help of his fellow surgeons. After that, I don’t know where we go. That’s really up to Shonda. I never know what’s going to happen.
You were pretty vocal about the Meredith/Derek relationship in the past season when they separated for a while. Are you happy with their relationship in season five?
Patrick Dempsey: I’m happy that we’re moving forward. I’m still hopeful and anxious to see where they go, though.
Derek seems to have a tough time proposing to Meredith on the show…
Patrick Dempsey: Well, that’s something for everyone to look forward to. I’ll tell you one thing… It definitely happens.
Are we going to see the first McBaby?
Patrick Dempsey: I have no idea about that.
What’s been the reaction on the street to Derek and Meredith getting together again?
Patrick Dempsey: I haven’t been out much, so I don’t know what they’re saying – but I think people want to see them get married and move on. I think they want to get over this back and forth relationship. Let’s just move forward and have a healthy relationship.
It the tabloids are true, it appears that there are going to be some big departures at the end of season five…
Patrick Dempsey: Who knows? We don’t even know. We don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. Everybody has contracts and I don’t know how people are going to get out of them. We honestly don’t know what’s coming up or who’s leaving. We ask, but we don’t find out. I don’t know what they’re thinking. I really don’t. I don’t think people should leave, quite honestly. I don’t want to see characters go. I mean, it was hard to see the spin-off happen and to lose Kate Walsh. I think she was a great asset to our show. It was also really sad to lose Isaiah Washington. I think he was a tremendous character for the show. I hate to see these characters leave.
At this point, how does your contract work?
Patrick Dempsey: I’ve got a seven-year contract. We’re all here for seven years, which means we’ve got at least two more seasons to go after season five. They’ve got us pretty much locked in, which is a good thing. It’s nice to have job security.
What’s the best thing to come out of working on the show?
Patrick Dempsey: At the end of the day, you have to remind yourself how fortunate we are to be on a successful show and how much the show has given all of us.
Do you think you will concentrate on movies or television when Grey’s Anatomy eventually finishes?
Patrick Dempsey: I’m on this show for two more years, but after that I probably wouldn’t jump into doing another television show right away. However, you never know what one needs to do to pay the rent. It would be fun to do some comedies, but employment is the goal. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Grey’s Anatomy: The Complete Fifth Season is available now on DVD!
Interview By: Emma Loggins