'Grey's Anatomy's' Shonda Rhimes "Never Imagined Saying Goodbye" to Patrick Dempsey

Grey's_Anatomy_Shonda_Rhimes_Inset - H 2015
AP Images/Invision; Courtesy of ABC

Grey's_Anatomy_Shonda_Rhimes_Inset - H 2015

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the April 23 episode of Grey's Anatomy.]

Grey's Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes has a message for diehard fans of her ABC medical drama following Thursday's shocking episode: It's going to be OK.

Thursday's installment, fittingly titled "How to Save a Life," featured the heart-wrenching death of the veteran drama's leading man, as Patrick Dempsey's Derek Shepherd was killed off after an 11-season run. After witnessing a car crash, Derek saved the lives of those involved — only to have his own car struck by a truck as he left the scene. He was then taken to a sub-par hospital where the doctors weren't properly trained to save his life, forcing Meredith to pull the plug on her husband's life.

"Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character — for Meredith, for me and for the fans," Rhimes said in a statement. "I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our ‘McDreamy.’ Patrick Dempsey’s performance shaped Derek in a way that I know we both hope became a meaningful example — happy, sad, romantic, painful and always true — of what young women should demand from modern love. His loss will be felt by all. Now, Meredith and the entire Grey’s Anatomy family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life. The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say: The carousel never stops turning."

Rhimes' remarks come as Dempsey exited Grey's Anatomy with a deal in place to take the actor and fan favorite through the show's expected — though not yet announced — twelfth season.

Dempsey has been a mainstay on the medical drama since season one, when the series that anchors ABC's so-called TGIT lineup launched one of television's most enduring love stories with Derek and leading lady Ellen Pompeo's Meredith Grey.

“It’s been a remarkable ride,” Dempsey told TVLine. "The worldwide impact has been extraordinary. It is incredible how devoted and passionate the fans are, and I will forever be grateful and humbled by the experience."

Dempsey also took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to send a note of gratitude to heartbroken fans. "I want to thank all the fans, what an incredible 11 yrs, I love you all," he wrote.

His departure puts a major cap in Grey's Anatomy's first season without Sandra Oh, who opted not to return for season 11 following a 10-year run as Meredith's best friend, Cristina Yang. At the time, Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter that she wanted "everybody for as long as they want to stay [with the series]."

Meanwhile, ABC released the following statement: "After 11 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey is moving on to pursue other interests. Dr. Derek Shepherd is an iconic character and we’ve been proud to be the home of ‘McDreamy’ and the ‘Mer/Der’ love story. The devotion of Grey’s fans throughout the years has been a testament to the creative mind of Shonda Rhimes and Dempsey’s talent. ‘McDreamy’ will be greatly missed and we wish Patrick the very best in his future endeavors."

Rhimes penned Thursday's episode, the first the prolific producer has written since the season eight finale in which Chyler Leigh's Lexie was killed off, Kim Raver's Teddy was written out and the seeds were planted for Eric Dane's Mark to be killed off early in season nine.

At the time, she said writing the deadly season eight finale was "incredibly hard" and made her sick. She confirmed Raver was ready to move on to other projects, while she and Leigh determined the time was right for Lexie's journey to end.

What do you think of Rhimes' comments? Sound off in the comments below.

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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