It’s only been eight months since Patrick Dempsey’s iconic character, Dr. Derek Shepherd, was killed off on Grey’s Anatomy, but a whole lot has changed for the 49-year-old actor: After a successful summer of racing for Porsche, Dempsey snagged a high-profile role in Bridget Jones’s Baby (out Sept. 16). EW recently sat down for an exclusive chat with Dempsey in London to talk about his new role as billionaire entrepreneur Jack Qwant, and how it feels like a lifetime ago that he walked away from the beloved role he played for 11 years on ABC.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you reflect on 2015?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: It’s been an incredible year. The objectives this season with the racing were achieved. It was perfect. Making the transition out of Grey’s Anatomy and focusing 100 percent on the racing made a big difference. It just showed me that you have to concentrate, and not spread everything so much.
There have been rumors that you are going to quit racing.
I think there are so many rumors that are absolutely ridiculous. Quit what, racing? Oh God, no. Absolutely not. I didn’t quit anything. People want to put everything in a box. Real life isn’t like that. The season is over. We’re going make an announcement of what we’re doing very soon. I’ll continue on with Porsche, certainly. I had a great relationship with them. It’s been a great year.
How did it feel jumping into a movie after doing TV for so long?
Oh, it’s completely reinvigorated me. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I think the pace of it is really good. Getting back to something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it’s very collaborative and it’s organic in how it comes together, how it changes and evolves. It’s just a completely different approach. With the show, you’re just grinding it out to get through it. In this instance, you take the time to walk through things. I really love it.
Did your team do some hand-wringing over how you would follow up Grey’s?
It just kind of came about. They were very accommodating and made it possible to for me to continue on racing, which was my objective this year.
What did you think about the reaction from fans to your departure from Grey’s?
I knew it would be heavy like that. I didn’t realize until we did our interview that it was really over. It started to dawn on me that this is coming to an end, which is why I think I was so moved by it. It was the first time I really stepped back and was starting to witness and to reflect on what had happened. That was the first time I was really saying goodbye to [Derek]. And I wasn’t at all surprised with how people reacted.
Did you read some of the reactions?
A little bit. And then I was pretty much done with it. You know, I was ready to move on and then I was focused on racing. When everything started happening, I was out of the country anyway and I was racing, which was a good distraction.
Has anybody said they’ve missed you?
Yes, lots of people. “It’s good to see you’re alive” is the comment you get. And I’m like, “Yes, I’m very much alive in reruns.” I think that was the thing. People were really invested in that relationship. It’s like that with Bridget Jones, too. I think there’s that emotional investment with people.
Does it feel now like it was worlds away, when you left Grey’s Anatomy?
Oh completely like that, without question. Very happy to have moved on with a different chapter in my life.
Would you still consider doing TV again?
I think I would consider anything. I just think you have to be open, to see what happens and what comes along.
In November, Shonda Rhimes appeared on Larry Wilmore’s show on Comedy Central and was asked if she ever killed off a character because she didn’t like the actor. She said yes. Do you think she was talking about you?
I think she loves being provocative and that’s fine for who she is. That gets people talking about all the stuff that she’s doing. She’s an amazing woman who is incredibly productive. She’s promoting a book. She’s promoting three shows. And she’s emerging as the star of all of these things. I think she knows how to deal with the media and what she needs to say to get the response that she’s looking for. She’s very savvy.
Would you like to continue making romantic comedies?
I’d like to do more. Romantic comedies as a genre are a bit lost at the moment. Collin Firth and I were talking about this. You look back at the movies that were done in the ’30s and the ’40s and the writing and the quality of the writing. It’s a bit of a lost genre. So, I would be open to that and I’m known for that. And that’s okay. But I certainly would love to do a thriller. I would love to do something that’s an action movie.
To continue reading more on Bridget Jones’s Baby, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here.