"He has incredible rhythm," says Weiland, who surprised Dempsey by asking him just moments before shooting a scene in a Bloomingdale's to juggle plates. "It was hilarious … and amazing. He has this smoldering, sexy thing going, but is also a comic. He doesn't mind sending himself up, and that's great."
He also can ride a unicycle -- and mime, reports Monaghan, adding, "Patrick really is like a big kid."
'The perfect package'
At home, Dempsey's twin boys, Darby and Sullivan, almost 15 months, attempt to mimic Daddy's whimsical nature. And when the family visited him on set during the film's month-long location shoot in Europe, the actor found time to take his 6-year-old daughter, Tallula, horseback riding while rehearsing riding scenes that figure in to the film's comedic climax.
Monaghan says, "People perceive him as a ladies' man for obvious reasons. But his family is the apple of his eye. In my eyes, he's the perfect package."
She was particularly impressed when she encountered Dempsey earlier in the day and received a compliment on her new haircut. "The only man I expect to notice that is my husband," says the actress. "When another man does, that's a plus. He's very sensitive."
As for Dempsey's next film role, that's yet to be determined, but probably not another comedy right away. "I have to be very careful what I do next," he concedes. "I need to find something different to keep surprising people."
Weiland suggests a small, art-house film. Monaghan would like to see him take on an edgy, dark role. But all that will have to wait. Because of the writers' strike, production will continue on 'Grey's' without the traditional summer hiatus that allows actors time for film roles. Dempsey says there were opportunities he could not accept.
"And that's too bad," he says with a shrug. "But I can't leave my day job."
Or can he?
Most TV stars are signed to six-year contracts when they begin a series. Next year, Dempsey will begin Season 5. Clooney checked out of 'ER' after six years, having proved his big-screen appeal in films such as 'From Dusk Till Dawn', 'Out of Sight', 'Three Kings' and, yes, even 'Batman & Robin'. Might Dempsey's Derek abandon his Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) in 2010?
"We'll see how long the show runs," he says. "And we'll see what happens at the end of my contract and if the crossover to films is strong enough."
"Grey's" co-star Katherine Heigl, he notes, has done "phenomenally well" balancing the show with her big-screen hits ("Knocked Up," "27 Dresses"). "She's off doing something else right now," he says of her 2009 romantic comedy, "The Ugly Truth."
Dempsey has made it clear that he hopes to get his family out of Hollywood as soon as possible, in favor of a simpler life in Maine (where he was born), with perhaps a second country home in Europe.
That would be possible as a film actor (like Clooney), but not as a doctor on rotation at Seattle Grace. "Especially with the boys, I think about it more and more to have some space for them to run around and not worry about it. I grew up like that, and I want that for them."
Could "Grey's" continue without its Dr. Shepherd, just as "ER" has continued for nearly a decade without Clooney's Dr. Doug Ross?
"That's an interesting question," Dempsey says. "I don't think 'Grey's' is the same type of show (as 'ER'). I don't think you can keep capturing the magic."
Couple's therapy or wedding bells?