Family & Companions
A charismatic, yet slightly geeky heartthrob of teen-pleasing films of the late 1980s, Patrick Dempsey succeeded in doing what few teen idols ever manage to do - disappear off the radar for several years before resurrecting their adult career as the resident hunk on one of the most popular TV shows of its time. Almost 20 years after riding that famous lawnmower to fame as the wannabe lady killer Ronald Miller in "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987), Dempsey landed the part of the stylishly coiffed neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd on the monster hit, "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). Hitting a career high with this role, Dempsey became a national obsession with the female contingent, all of whom wholeheartedly agreed that the actor lived up to his infamous moniker, "Dr. McDreamy." Dempsey remained a key part of "Grey's Anatomy" until the spring of 2015, when Dr. Shepherd was suddenly killed off in a surprise twist that shocked the series' longtime fans.
Born Patrick Galen Dempsey on Jan. 13, 1966 in Lewiston, ME to parents Amanda and William Dempsey, Dempsey grew up in Lewiston, attending St. Dominic Regional High School in the nearby town of Auburn. Diagnosed with dyslexia as a teenager, Dempsey struggled with the then misunderstood learning disability, but managed to shift focus from his weaker subjects to his talent for dance and acting. An avid juggler, he developed his own act and toured with the New England Vaudeville Circuit by age 15. Exhibiting a natural gift for performance, Dempsey won the Talent America Contest in 1981, catching the eye of an agent, who offered to audition the gangly youngster for the San Francisco production of "Torch Song Trilogy." Portraying the role of David, Dempsey toured with the company for several months. He went on to perform with the Maine Acting Company in "On Golden Pond" and the international touring production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
Making his feature film debut in 1985, Dempsey portrayed a Catholic school boy alongside Andrew McCarthy in the comedy "Heaven Help Us." The following year, he made his television debut as Mike Damone in the short-lived "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) spin-off, "Fast Times" (CBS, 1986). Popular with young female audiences, Dempsey became a leading man in a number of '80s' romantic comedies. Girls swooned over Dempsey as a nerdy high school senior who not only mows lawns for extra income (and seemingly really enjoys it) but who bribes a cheerleader into dating him in "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987) - a role which earned Dempsey the 1988 Young Artist Award. Equally close to every teenage girls' heart was the actor's turn as a pizza deliveryman who offers up his "special services" in "Loverboy" (1987) to such comparatively older actresses as Carrie Fisher, Kirstie Alley and Kate Jackson. Portraying real-life teen lothario Sonny Wisecarver in "In the Mood" (1987), Dempsey's on-screen roles began to mirror his personal life. Shocking his fans in 1987 - at the tender age of 21, he married his 48-year-old manager Rocky Parker.
Hoping to break out from his teen idol image, Dempsey began to take on different roles. He portrayed one of three brothers reunited for a cross-country road trip in "Coupe de Ville" (1990), co-starred alongside Christian Slater and Richard Grieco as gangster Meyer Lansky in the horrid mafia flick, "Mobsters" (1991), and portrayed a law student on the run opposite Kelly Preston in the aptly titled, "Run" (1991). Returning to his roots on the stage, Dempsey made his off-Broadway debut in a production of "The Subject was Roses" at the Roundabout Theatre. He went on to turn in a compelling performance as John F. Kennedy in the ABC miniseries "JFK: Reckless Youth" (1993) and went behind the camera to co-direct the family film, "Ava's Magical Adventure" (1994) with real-life wife Parker. Unfortunately, Dempsey's directorial debut went mostly unnoticed and he and Parker ended their seven-year marriage in 1994. Though Dempsey was able to find regular acting work during this time, the popularity he experienced in his early 20s had dwindled to an almost embarrassed acknowledgement from fans who had naturally moved on the next hunk-of-the-month. His struggle with dyslexia made the process of auditioning even more arduous for the actor.
Dempsey began seizing the only opportunities available to a former teen idol - supporting roles in a number of projects of varying quality and visibility. He appeared alongside Joe Pesci and Brendan Fraser as a Harvard student in "With Honors" (1994) and tuned in a compelling performance as a man who becomes embroiled in the cover-up of a murder in the television adaptation of Dominick Dunne's "A Season in Purgatory" (1996). He starred opposite Michael Caine in the NBC adaptation of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1997) and went on to share the screen with Ben Kingsley, portraying Rodya Raskolnikov in the television adaptation of Dostoyevskys's "Crime and Punishment" (NBC, 1998). In 2000, Dempsey landed a role as a detective in the Wes Craven horror sequel, "Scream 3."
In the first of his adult-hunk roles, Dempsey surprised many by effectively portraying a closeted sportscaster and love interest to Eric McCormack's up-tight Will on a three-episode arc of "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006). Viewers of both sexes could not help but notice that Dempsey was maturing nicely. Next, he gave a touching performance as Sela Ward's schizophrenic brother, Aaron on the award-winning ABC drama, "Once and Again" (1999-2002) - a role that earned Dempsey an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. His career on a sudden upswing, he continued to effectively emanate sex appeal as Reese Witherspoon's fiancé in the big screen romantic comedy, "Sweet Home Alabama" (2002). In a less showy part, he appeared as Washington Post cartoonist Ben Weissman opposite Hilary Swank and Anjelica Houston in the HBO suffragette drama "Iron Jawed Angels" (2004).
Still hoping to revisit the success he had experienced almost 20 years prior, Dempsey found the break he was looking for in 2005. Up for leads on two network medical dramas (he auditioned for the role of Dr. Gregory House on Fox's "House," which later went to Hugh Laurie), Dempsey landed the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd on the midseason hit "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). In that rare bit of a luck few former teen idols experience a second time 'round, Dempsey and his impressive head of hair quickly found himself back in the spotlight and back in the hearts of adoring female fans - some new, some old school torch carriers - this time as he approached age 40. Portraying the show's lead Ellen Pompeo's conflicted love interest, Dempsey's character was dubbed "McDreamy" on the series, and with good reason. Dempsey's affecting charm and charismatic performance on "Grey's" earned him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series.
The positive buzz the show enjoyed into his first full season came to a screeching halt in October of 2006 when Dempsey and co-star Isaiah Washington got into an on-set scuffle. Media coverage reported that Washington had lashed out at Dempsey - allegedly by way of choking McDreamy - and had thrown out a homophobic slur in reference to their co-star T.R. Knight (Dr. George O'Malley) for being late to the set. As the story allegedly went, Dempsey had verbally jumped to Knight's defense for being late, which set off Washington and it all went downhill from there. Washington later issued a statement taking responsibility for his actions - more for manhandling the male star of the show, than for essentially forcing Knight to come out of the closet once word of the scuffle reached the press. In any case, Dempsey came out looking the hero, since it was he who had come to his gay co-star's defense.
Once all the drama dust settled, Dempsey was able to parlay his incredible popularity on the small screen back to the big, returning to feature films by reuniting with "Angels" co-star Swank in the drama, "Freedom Writers" (2007). In the critically well received film, Dempsey portrayed supportive husband to Swank's Long Beach teacher who attempts to inspire street-tough teens to reach their creative potential as writers. Dempsey next starred in the romantic fantasy "Enchanted" (2007) opposite Amy Adams. Building on his romantic leading man status, Dempsey starred in the romantic comedy "Made of Honor" (2008) with Michelle Monaghan; the film received negative reviews put performed well at the box office. Dempsey next appeared in Garry Marshall's "Valentine's Day" (2010), followed by a supporting role in Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011). Dempsey's next film credit was the low-budget action comedy "Flypaper," co-starring Ashley Judd, on which he also served as producer. Throughout this period, Dempsey maintained his leading role on "Grey's Anatomy," until Dr. Derek Shepherd was suddenly killed off on the series' April 23, 2015 episode.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Performed as juggler, magician and puppeteer before Elks clubs and community organizations
Stage debut, "On Golden Pond," with Maine Acting Company
Won "Talent America" contest and the attention of a booking agent during the summer
Appeared in San Francisco production of "Torch Song Trilogy"
Film acting debut, "Heaven Help Us"
TV debut as Mike Damone in the short-lived CBS teen sitcom "Fast Times"
TV-movie debut as an epileptic teen in "A Fighting Choice" (ABC)
Breakthrough role as Ronald Miller, the loveable geek in "Can't Buy Me Love"
Portrayed an amorous pizza delivery man in "Loverboy"
Co-starred in "Coup de Ville"
Made Off-Broadway debut in a revival of "The Subject Was Roses"
Portrayed the young Meyer Lansky in "Mobsters"
Cast in the title role of the ABC miniseries "JFK: Reckless Youth"
Directorial debut as co-helmer (with then wife Rocky Parker) of "Ava's Magical Adventure"
Appeared as Brendan Fraser's college roommate in "With Honors"
Starred in the CBS miniseries "A Season in Purgatory," adapted from the Dominick Dunne novel
Modeled clothes for the J. Crew catalog
Played title role in the biblical drama "Jeremiah" (aired in the USA in 2000 on PAX TV)
Cast in a recurring role as the psycholigically disturbed brother of Lily (Sela Ward) on "Once and Again" (ABC), earned an Emmy (2001) nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor
Co-starred as a detective investigating a string of murders on a film set in "Scream 3"
Had recurring role as a closeted sportscaster dating lawyer Will Truman (Eric McCormack) in the NBC sitcom "Will & Grace"
Portrayed Cass Chaplin (a semi-fictive Charles Chaplin Jr.) in the CBS miniseries "Blonde" based on Joyce Carol Oates' novel
Co-starred with Reese Witherspoon in the romantic comedy "Sweet Home Alabama"
Cast in the HBO original movie "Iron Jawed Angels" based on womens' struggle for the right to vote in America
Cast as Dr. Derek Shepherd in the ABC medical drama "Grey's Anatomy"; earned Golden Globe (2006, 2007) and SAG (2006) nominations for Best Actor
Played the husband of Hilary Swank's character in "Freedom Writers"
Co-starred with Amy Adams in the live-action, animated feature, "Enchanted"
Starred with Michelle Monaghan in the romantic comedy, "Made of Honor"
Joined an ensemble cast for the Garry Marshall directed romantic comedy, "Valentine's Day"
Appeared in Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
Produced and acted in the action-comedy "Flypaper"
His Grey's Anatomy character, Dr. Shepherd, killed off after 10 years on the show.
Cast as Jack, one of two romantic interests in Renée Zellweger vehicle "Bridget Jones's Baby"