Even after all these years, Grey’s Anatomy still knows how to shock and impress fans and the season 17 premiere did just that, in a very big way.
After Patrick Dempsey’s surprise return as Derek Shepherd at the end of the premiere episode, the series’ showrunner Krista Vernoff has confirmed it isn’t the last we have seen of McDreamy.
“We will see more of [Derek] this season,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “This was not just a cameo. He will appear three more times.”
Derek made his return in what appears to be a dream sequence for Meredith after she was found collapsed in the hospital’s parking lot.
Vernoff also revealed that Dempsey’s return was kept a secret from basically everyone and the scripts actually had Meredith envisioning a reunion with her mother, instead of Derek, so that no one would know what was going to happen ahead of time.
“We didn’t tell the writers for the longest time. When she’s walking and she looks as someone is calling to her, and she goes, ‘Derek?’ In the script, I had it as Ellis Grey,” Vernoff recalled. “And she goes, ‘Mom?’ We read it at the table that way. Nobody knew what we were doing — to the point that when the crew showed up on the day we shot the scene, nobody knew. It was top secret.” Vernoff added, “I didn’t send cuts to the studio and network that included that last scene. I didn’t have writers’ assistants in the writers’ room for the last couple of months. There were writers who didn’t know we were doing this on that staff. Most of the actors didn’t know we were doing this. The crew didn’t know we were doing this when they showed up on the day.”
For his part, Dempsey was ecstatic to return to the role even in a small way. “It’s crazy how much time has passed, but it really was so comforting, and lovely, and inspiring to go back, and to work together, to see everybody,” he said. “It really was so open too; that was the thing, really — people were very, I think, vulnerable in a positive way, where we were all grateful to be there and to be together.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.