'Grey's Anatomy' boss explains why Derek Shepherd had to die: 'What were the options?'

Why'd Shonda Rhimes Kill Off 'Grey's Anatomy' Love?

Shonda Rhimes has caught a lot of grief -- especially from MerDer shippers -- for killing off the beloved Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) during the latest season of Grey's Anatomy, but from the showrunner's perspective, her hands were tied. With Dempsey exiting the show, Rhimes had to find a way to end Grey's central relationship without destroying over a decade's worth of history between Shepherd and Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).

WATCH: 'Grey's Anatomy' Shocker: Derek Shepherd's Sudden Death Wrecks Us All!

"What were the options? Either Der was going to walk out on Mer and leave her high and dry, and what was that going to mean?" Rhimes said at the summer TCA press tour on Tuesday. "That would suggest the love wasn't true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie."

The head honcho of ABC's Thursday night "T.G.I.T." lineup, which also includes Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, explained that the only organic way she saw to end the show's most pivotal relationship was with Shepherd's death.

"Meredith and Derek's love had to remain Meredith and Derek's love," Rhimes explained. "As painful as it was for me as a storyteller, the only way to preserve what felt true to me was Derek was going to have to die for that love to remain honest."

WATCH: Katherine Heigl on 'Grey's Anatomy': 'I Can't Imagine the Show Without McDreamy'

The writer and producer said that the show's upcoming 12th season will be a "rebirth." Martin Henderson will be joining the cast of the medical drama as a new male presence on the long-running ABC series.

"We do have this world in which Meredith is single, and she is living this life that she hadn't thought she was going to be living again," Rhimes teased.

WATCH: Ellen Pompeo Speaks Out on Patrick Dempsey's 'Grey's Anatomy' Exit

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