Shonda Rhimes of 'Grey's Anatomy' Explains Why She Killed Off McDreamy

Pam WrightLife

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Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey's Anatomy, broke her silence on Tuesday about her decision to kill off Patrick Demsey's character, Derek Shepherd, saying it was the only way to preserve Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek's love.

"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 as part of a panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "That would suggest the love wasn't true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie."

With the decision that Patrick Dempsey needed to leave the show, Shonda Rhimes said the most logical way for McDreamy to leave Meredith was through death.

"Meredith and Derek's love had to remain Meredith and Derek's love," said Rhimes. "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. I really couldn’t have the idea that he turned out to be a bad guy who walked out on his wife and his kids, [and have that turn] out to be a true story. To me, that was the only way to make Meredith and Derek’s magic remain true and remain frozen in time."

Looking forward to the upcoming Season 12, Rhimes said Meredith's future as a single mother will offer many new opportunities the character never dreamed of.

"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," said Shonda Rhimes.

Meredith finds herself living in a house with her sister "surrounded by women who are 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 ... or are those years behind you?"
The Season 12 theme is "rebirth," Rhimes spilled.

Ellen Pompeo said she is excited to portray Meredith in this new chapter of her life as a widow.

"It is just a very important human story to tell. So many people lose their spouses. A lot of people feel like they can't get up again," said Pompeo. "If we give anybody, even one person, a little bit of comfort, that's a story worth telling."

Grey's Anatomy returns to ABC on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m. ET.

Pam Wright