“Grey’s Anatomy” fans have seen a lot of characters come and go on the show. But plenty were still shocked when romantic lead Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) died during the most recent episode of the ABC medical drama.
Dempsey had starred on the show since its first episode and his character Derek was married to “Grey’s” lead Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).
“It was just a natural progression with the way the story was unfolding,” Dempsey told Entertainment Weekly. “This was obviously the right time.”
The ABC show is currently airing its eleventh season and the departure of the character of Derek means Meredith is one of the only original main characters left. The show has seen the exits of original actors Sandra Oh, T.R. Knight, Katherine Heigl, and Isaiah Washington, among others.
“Grey’s” is a good example of how to keep a show feeling fresh and viewers invested despite the exits of many original actors. The show originally centered on Meredith and her fellow interns as well as their superiors at the hospital. But because there hasn’t been a mass exodus – the closest the show has come was the departure of Knight and of Heigl, which happened close to the same time – new characters have been given a chance to integrate themselves into the show before older characters departed. Some of the actors who did not star in the first seasons of the show but have become fan favorites include Sara Ramirez as Callie Torres and Kevin McKidd as Owen Hunt. In addition, the show's setting lends itself well to introducing new characters. New doctors or interns can always plausibly appear.
In short, “Grey’s” has a lot of experience with a departing main character (Oh’s character Cristina Yang just left at the end of the previous season). That doesn’t mean fans aren’t still recovering from the most recent plot development, however. Some Twitter users are not pleased with the departure of the character.