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Can Grey’s Anatomy sur­vive with­out McDreamy? That is the ques­tion fans were ask­ing af­ter Pa­trick Dempsey, who played Dr Derek Shep­herd, left the US med­i­cal drama last sea­son.

Star Ellen Pom­peo, who has played Dr Mered­ith Grey for more than a decade, reck­ons the an­swer is a re­sound­ing “yes”.

Grey’s Anatomy, from cre­ator and writer Shonda Rhimes ( Scan­dal, How to Get Away with Mur­der) is set to en­ter its 12th sea­son with what seems like re­newed vigour. Pom­peo dis­misses talk she will quit any time soon.

What has work­ing on Grey’s Anatomy done for your ca­reer?

It has been such a jour­ney, you know. It’s been 12 years. And I think more than the act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of it, it’s just been an ed­u­ca­tion. I’ve learned a lot about be­ing an ac­tor and about be­ing a good per­son and a team player and a good mother. I’ve learned so much about life from this jour­ney.

Can you tell me, on a scale of one to 10, how much you miss Pa­trick Dempsey on set?

Any time we lose a mem­ber of the cast, you feel it. The energy shifts. But in or­der to cre­ate great drama, we need big things to hap­pen. And ev­ery time a beloved cast mem­ber has left, it gives us new air.

She (Mered­ith) needs that kind of up­heaval. Beau­ti­ful flow­ers grow out of that ash ev­ery time. It is a much dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing a show for a long time. It’s such a test of stamina and en­durance. In or­der for the show to keep go­ing on and for the sto­ries to keep be­ing fresh and new, we do need change, as painful as it is for the au­di­ence.

Are you ready to face any of the new chal­lenges that Mered­ith is go­ing to face on this sea­son as a sin­gle mother, a widow and fac­ing her ca­reer with three kids now? What was it like shoot­ing your fi­nal scenes with Pa­trick and say­ing good­bye to your on-screen part­ner?

As dif­fi­cult as those de­ci­sions are (to kill off a char­ac­ter), it’s re­ally her (Rhimes) best writ­ing. So, as an ac­tor, those are the best scenes to play. That’s the meati­est stuff.

How do you feel about Mered­ith fac­ing life as a widow and a sin­gle mother with three young chil­dren?

I think this is 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. And so you tell that story about how life goes on af­ter what you think is im­pos­si­ble (and that) is some­thing so many peo­ple can re­late to. If we give any­body, even one per­son, a bit of com­fort or open their eyes to a new idea, make them feel some new joy when they thought they couldn’t again, that’s a story worth telling.

A lot of ac­tors com­plain about work­ing nine or 10 months a year on the same part on the same show. Why is it dif­fer­ent for you?

I think it de­pends on what your pri­or­i­ties are and what you find gru­elling. (With) my per­son­al­ity, I find go­ing from job to job, not know­ing when the next job is go­ing to come, gru­elling. I’m much bet­ter suited to hav­ing a steady job and know­ing that my fu­ture is se­cure and that my chil­dren’s fu­ture is se­cure.


Grey’s Anatomy, Chan­nel 7, Mon­day, 10pm

Pic­ture: Chan­nel 7

Ellen Pom­peo likes the sta­bil­ity of 12 years on Grey’s Anatomy.

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