This story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Dempsey was among TV’s highest-paid stars, earning what sources say was about $400,000 an episode — or roughly $9.6 million for a 24-episode season of the drama, which is produced by ABC Studios.
The actor, 49, was written out when his Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd was killed off in the April 23 episode, which was penned by series creator Shonda Rhimes. Perhaps even more surprising was that Dempsey had another year left on his contract.
Few details have emerged about what led to Dempsey’s departure, though in recent months he had been vocal about moving on with a focus on TV development via his overall deal with ABC Studios, where he has a racing drama in the works at SundanceTV.
Top stars leaving hit shows is becoming a trend this season. The CW’s The Vampire Diaries — one of the younger-skewing network’s signature shows — is losing its leading lady. Star Nina Dobrev announced April 6 that she would walk away from the Warner Bros. Television-produced series when her contract is up at the end of season six. And The Good Wife‘s Emmy winner Archie Panjabi decided to follow co-star Josh Charles out the door this season for a 20th TV deal to star in a drama pilot.
While the departures creatively rock the series, they no doubt provide some cost-savings as all three shows have been getting a bit long in the tooth. The graying of Grey’s, for instance, has inspired a wave of medical drama pilots in the works this season at the broadcast networks, while Vampire Diaries ceded its position as The CW’s highest-rated series to Arrow and subsequently The Flash.