Did Patrick Dempsey star on Grey’s Anatomy for too long? He thinks so.
In a new interview with PEOPLE, the actor — who played Dr. Derek Shepherd for 11 seasons on the hit ABC series — says he “stayed a bit longer than I should have” on the Shonda Rhimes drama.
“It had been long enough,” Dempsey said, after noting how grateful he was for the opportunity. “It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier.”
Dempsey noted that he and Rhimes had discussed his departure and kept it secret. “I knew he was going to be gone, but I didn’t know how she was going to handle it,” he said. “Shonda just said, ‘I’m going to do it in a really good way,’ and she did her thing.”
The 50-year-old Dempsey became emotional when speaking to EW last year in the exclusive first interview after Shepherd’s death. He noted the grueling schedule as one thing that caught up to him, but recalled the excellent chemistry with star Ellen Pompeo as a propelling force to keep McDreamy a vibrant character.
“With Ellen, there was the magic,” Dempsey told EW. “I just played with her. You have all this crazy sh– going on around you, and then you’re in front of the camera. We were just present to each other and listening to each other. It was always very magical, but very professional.”
Read Dempsey’s full comments at People. He stars in Bridget Jones’s Baby, which opens Sept. 16.