McDreamy returned in a McDream to Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) on Grey's Anatomy last week, marking Patrick Dempsey's first appearance on the show since his character was killed off five years ago. He talked to Ellen on Wednesday about how that surprise came about.
"I reached out to Ellen, and Ellen and I got together in July and we were like 'what can we do to get people to wear masks, you know, how can we make an impact here?'" he said. "We hadn't spoken in quite some time, and we were playing catch up and she goes 'what do you think about coming back onto the show? Here's our idea of what we want to do for Season 17,' and I was like 'what a great opportunity for people and how great it would be for the fans, really, to see everybody reunited in this sort of bizarre way.'... [Showrunner] Krista [Vernoff] came up with this concept where I would come and visit her in her COVID dream."
Most of the crew weren't aware that he was returning, in an attempt to keep that surprise a secret. "Nobody knew about it other than ABC — of course some people at ABC — Krista, and then Ellen and myself and that was it, and then we started talking to the directors, which would be Debbie Allen, who's amazing, and Kevin McKidd, who is one of the directors that I worked with, and that was it. And no one knew until I showed up on set that day, and then we were really concerned that someone would take a picture and it would get out somehow, but we managed to keep it a secret, which was pretty phenomenal."
"The response has been incredibly overwhelming and very moving," he added. "It was nice to be able to have it work out this way, you know? There were so many souls that we have lost, right now the thought of having angels around us is very comforting, certainly to me."
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9:00 PM ET on ABC.
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Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.