Actor James Pickens, Jr. attends the 2015 ABC NY Upfront Presentation at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, May 12, 2015, in New York.
camera (Mireya Acierto/Getty Images) Actor James Pickens, Jr. attends the 2015 ABC NY Upfront Presentation at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, May 12, 2015, in New York.

James Pickens Jr. has portrayed Dr. Richard Webber on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" since its premiere in 2005.

However, even he didn't know about the surprise departure of Patrick Dempsey, who played the Dr. Derek Shepherd on the series.

"We didn't know a whole lot. It was kind of on the fly," Pickens told ABC News. "So whatever information we got, we pretty much got it kind of right before it happened."

Pickens said he'll miss his former co-star, whose character was killed when a tractor-trailer struck his car. Dempsey, said Pickens, helped make the show the hit that it is today.

"Obviously, 'Grey's' wouldn't have been 'Grey's' without him. He was such an integral part of that. He's a very, very talented guy," he said. "His character has become iconic. I mean, it's part of the lexicon of TV."

Personally, the departure has been tough, too, because the cast and crew feels like "a family," he said.

"We spend as much time -- if not more -- with th[ose] folks than we do with our actual families. So you better learn how to get along," he said. "But I think everybody has a great respect for one another's talent and what they bring to this process and, obviously, that makes 'Grey's' such a phenomenal hit after all these seasons."

Last season, Pickens' Dr. Webber found out he had a daughter with his ex-lover, Ellis Grey. The actor said he hoped to explore that relationship next season.

"I'd love to see them delve more into what that relationship can be. He had no biological children of his own until now," he said, adding that he'd like his character, who is often busy at Seattle Grace Hospital, to "be more available."

"Grey's Anatomy" will return to ABC in the fall.