'Grey's Anatomy's' Shonda Rhimes explains her decision to kill McDreamy

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Shonda Rhimes Finally Explains Why Derek Had To Die On Grey's Anatomy


ABC capped off its first of two days at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour with a TGIT-themed panel featuring stars Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy), Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), who were joined by exec producers Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Pete Nowalk to discuss a wide range of topics including why the prolific showrunner opted to kill off leading man Patrick Dempsey on the long-running medical drama.

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"The decision to have the character die the way that he did, was not a difficult one in the sense of what were the options? Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith and leave her high and dry and what was that going to mean?" Rhimes said. "That was going to suggest that their love was not true — that the thing we said for 11 years was a lie and McDreamy wasn't McDreamy and that was untenable. Meredith and Derek's love had to remain Meredith and Derek's love. As painful as it was for me as a storyteller because I never thought that would happen, the only way to preserve that is Derek had to die for that love to remain honest. I couldn't have that he turned out to be a bad guy who walked out on his wife and kid ... for me, the only way was to make Derek and Meredith's magic to remain true and forever frozen in time."

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'Grey's Anatomy's' Shonda Rhimes explains her decision to kill McDreamy
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Can We Start Again Please?' - Secrets about Amelia's past addictions come to light and cause problems for her at the hospital; Bailey oversees Jo's first solo surgery; and Arizona must make an executive decision in Dr. Herman's absence. Meanwhile, the doctors spring into action when a couple arrives at the emergency room after escaping a fire, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Can We Start Again Please?' - Secrets about Amelia's past addictions come to light and cause problems for her at the hospital; Bailey oversees Jo's first solo surgery; and Arizona must make an executive decision in Dr. Herman's absence. Meanwhile, the doctors spring into action when a couple arrives at the emergency room after escaping a fire, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Can We Start Again Please?' - Secrets about Amelia's past addictions come to light and cause problems for her at the hospital; Bailey oversees Jo's first solo surgery; and Arizona must make an executive decision in Dr. Herman's absence. Meanwhile, the doctors spring into action when a couple arrives at the emergency room after escaping a fire, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Only Mama Knows' - Secrets from Ellis Grey's past come to light when Meredith watches old videos and reads through her mother's journals. Meanwhile, Maggie rocks the hospital with an unexpected announcement; Alex gets new responsibilities and Callie focuses her attention on the Veterans' project on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Only Mama Knows' - Secrets from Ellis Grey's past come to light when Meredith watches old videos and reads through her mother's journals. Meanwhile, Maggie rocks the hospital with an unexpected announcement; Alex gets new responsibilities and Callie focuses her attention on the Veterans' project on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Puzzle With A Piece Missing' - In this Maggie centric episode, she continues to try to make a positive impression at the hospital but finds herself in extremely unfortunate situations. Meanwhile, Richard continues to hold onto his secret and the doctors work with a dying woman who is being kept alive by her daughter, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Ron Tom/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy' stars Ellen Pompeo as Dr. Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd. (Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'Go It Alone' - Cristina enlists Meredith to help her prepare an acceptance speech for her possible Harper Avery win and while Owen offers to attend the ceremony with her, she insists on going alone. Meanwhile, Derek feels overwhelmed between his responsibilities at home and at the hospital. April and Jackson come to a disagreement on children and religion, and Callie and Arizona try to reconnect in their marriage, on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, APRIL 17 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images) GAIUS CHARLES, PATRICK DEMPSEY, JERRIKA HINTON, TESSA FERRER
GREY'S ANATOMY - 'I'm Winning' - Cristina is nominated for a Harper Avery and although most of her fellow doctors are ecstatic, she won't let herself get too excited. Bailey continues to work on a young boy without an immune system -- Alex considers making a change, and Derek and Callie work with a machine that can recognize emotions. Meanwhile, Richard gives the residents a pep talk about the exciting projects going on around the hospital on 'Grey's Anatomy,' THURSDAY, APRIL 10 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Danny Feld/ABC via Getty Images)
May 17, 2006 - New York, New York, USA - K47884AR .ABC UPFRONT AT LINCOLN CENTER , NEW YORK New York 05-16-2006 . ANDREA RENAULT- PATRICK DEMPSEY(Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Jan 28, 2007; Hollywood, California, USA; Actor PATRICK DEMPSEY at the 13th Annual SAG Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium Los Angeles Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paul Fenton/ZUMA Press. (©) Copyright 2007 by Paul Fenton
Jan. 28, 2011 - Park City, Utah, U.S. - Actor PATRICK DEMPSEY of the film 'Flypaper' during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, which runs thru January 30th. Sundance is the largest independent cinema festival in the USA, held annually since 1978 in Park City, it is the premier showcase for new work fr
LONG BEACH, CALIF. -- Patrick Dempsey during the media day for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.) on April 6, 2010. Dempsey will be competing World Challenge during the Grand Prix. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram
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Dempsey, who had a year remaining on his contract, shockingly was written out of Grey's Anatomy during the 21st episode of season 11. The character was involved in what would be a fatal car crash and later died at a hospital other than Grey Sloan Memorial partially because of an unqualified staff. The hour, titled "How to Save a Life" in a nod to the show's unofficial theme song, was the first episode written by showrunnerRhimes since the season eight finale in which series regulars Chyler Leigh (Lexie) and Kim Raver (Teddy) were written out.
Rhimes noted that there were a lot of discussions about how the actor's character would be killed off and called the actor part of the Shondaland family. "Those choices are never easy for any of us," she said of the process.

Added Pompeo of losing her leading man after 11 seasons: "A difficult as those decisions are, it's really her best writing. Those are the best scenes to play ... As difficult as it is, we had something really juicy."

Asked specifically how Derek's death will change Meredith now that she isn't partially "defined by a man," Rhimes noted that "Meredith Grey has never been defined by her relationship with a man."

As for the future of the ABC medical drama, which returns on in the fall for season 12, Rhimes and Pompeo both agreed with ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee's remarks earlier in the day that Grey's could go on "for many, many years to come."

As for Scandal, Washington and Rhimes were asked how fixer Olivia Pope would handle Donald Trump.

"Do you think she'd tell him to do something about the hair?" Rhimes said to Washington. Interjected Pompeo: "You can send him over to Meredith and I can cut his vocal cords out."

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As for what to expect from Grey's, Rhimes said season 12 would feature "a lighter tone." "We ended last season talking about the sun is going to rise again ... we have this world in which Meredith is single and she is living this life she hadn't thought she'd be living again," she said. "She's living in a house with her sisters and she's surrounded by ... women dating and having a whole life and she's not interested in any of that. You start to wonder if there's a second life here or if those years are behind you and you're on a different track. I'm excited about the medical growth she's experiencing as a leader, who she's becoming as a person and where she's going. The theme is rebirth, which I'm exited about for all the characters but really for Meredith. That evolution for the character is really beautiful."

As for Scandal, Rhimes noted the season would pick up almost immediately in the aftermath of Mellie being kicked out of the White House and explore what happens after everyone's world had been blown apart.

Murder season two, Nowalk said, would explore the backstories of everyone on the show, including how they met and the "dark and twisted things" that happened in the past" that made the characters who they are today."
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