From day one, Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo have led the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” as Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd and Dr. Meredith Grey, but now Pompeo reveals that the show’s creator had a different McDreamy in mind.
Shonda Rhimes, the show’s African-American creator, head writer and executive producer, “really wanted to put a black man in the mix,” Pompeo revealed to the New York Post, referring to actor Isaiah Washington. “I didn’t think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn’t want him. It was too close to home.”
Pompeo’s husband of six years, music producer Chris Ivery, is African-American. They have 3-year-old daughter, Stella Luna.
“I said I wanted that Dempsey kid,” Pompeo, 43, told the Post. “I think that once Isaiah did not get the role, it backfired.”
Fans will remember how Washington, who was instead cast as Sandra Oh’s love interest, Dr. Preston Burke, did not return for a fourth season after he was overheard using a homophobic slur on-set and backstage at the 2007 Golden Globe Awards.
Speaking about it for the first time, Pompeo said Washington’s departure, coupled a year later with Katherine Heigl’s, left the show reeling.
“Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control,” she told the Post. “The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work.
“Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing,” the actress continued. “I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me.”
Still, Pompeo admitted Heigl’s departure was “tough.”
“You could understand why she wanted to go, when you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26,” Pompeo told the newspaper. “But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off.”
Sandra Oh, who plays prickly doctor Cristina Yang, is the latest cast member to announce her exit. She’ll depart at the end of the 10th season, which premiered Sept. 26.
But Pompeo said she has never thought of leaving.
“Actors always think the grass is greener somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that,” she told the Post. “I have an amazing life. I have a house five minutes from the studio, I have a house in the Hamptons, a house in Malibu, a beautiful daughter whom I see every night, and it’s all because I didn’t leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”