Is Patrick Dempsey Leaving 'Grey's Anatomy'?

Though Dempsey says that next season of the hit show is "gonna be my last," his rep insists that nothing is set in stone

McDreamy's days may be numbered. Or not. But probably.

Patrick Dempsey, a.k.a. Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on ABC's Grey's Anatomy, has caused quite a stir among fans: In a seemingly off-the-cuff comment during an interview with the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, the 45-year-old heartthrob said he'd be leaving the show after season 8, when his contract expires.

"It's gonna be my last," Dempsey said. "I do not know what's going to happen to the other characters, but for me it's done."

He may not have considered this big news. After all, Grey's creator Shonda Rimes recently told TV Line that next season might be the final one for many of the original cast members, since all their contracts are due for renewal.

"It might be the last hurrah for a lot of them," Rimes said. "Everybody has an individual choice to make and I get that. All the originals are in play."

But hearing about Dempsey's probable departure -- from the man himself -- must have been a jolt for rank and file Grey's acolytes. Dempsey's publicist released a swift statement to Entertainment Weekly, playing down his comments: "He was referring to the fact that his contract is up at the end of next season, and we have no idea what the future holds."

Let's face it, though, Dempsey's comments to the European magazine sounded pretty definitive. Did something get lost in the Italian-English translation? Could he have meant to say that his departure depended on his salary negotiations when his contract expired? Not so long ago, producers were able to convince all of the main players of Friends to stay on for a 10th season, even after most had publicly pronounced their decision not to return. Money talks, my friends.

But... this seems unlikely. Dempsey is probably more than ready to move on after eight seasons. George Clooney left after only five seasons of ER, and that worked out pretty well for him.

The bright side to Dempsey jumping ship? Fans won't have to wait too long to see Derek and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) reunite, after their painful sorta-breakup during the season 7 finale. Rhimes told TV Line, "I feel like Meredith and Derek are meant to be together forever, and we're going to make sure that in the end they end up together, one would hope -- unless one of them dies or something."

Hmm... So if Dempsey leaves the show and Pompeo stays, does that mean McDreamy will be McDead by season's end? We'll just have to wait and see!

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