Scott D. Pierce: Dempsey is pretty much over 'Grey's Anatomy'
Beverly Hills, Calif. •
Starring on a hit TV show sounds exciting, a dream come true unless you've been doing it for 10 seasons.
"Grey's Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey certainly sounds less than enthused about his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd. He'd rather be driving a race car at LeMans, as he does in the four-part series cleverly titled "Patrick Dempsey: Racing LaMans," which premieres Aug. 28 on cable channel Velocity.
"I just love it," Dempsey said. "I've loved it since I was a kid. You're really testing yourself. You're going into your own fears and anxieties, and you have to test yourself physically and mentally."
He's less excited about his regular job. "I'm not necessarily bored with the show," he said without much enthusiasm.
Acting? That's just an extremely high-paying job. Various estimates put Dempsey's salary somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000 per episode. And he's "very grateful that I have a show that's been on for 10 years."
Actually, it's a little over eight years; "Grey's" is heading into its 10th season.
But, creatively, Dr. McDreamy doesn't provide much of a challenge, in part because "I'm not the creator. I'm not the writer," he said. "It's a trade, quite honestly. And that's fine, you know."
He doesn't make it sound like it's fine.
"When you're on a show that's been on for, we're coming up to 200 episodes, it's about surviving," he said. "And you find ways to turn yourself on with the material that you're given. But it's like being in a band. You have a specific note that you play, and that's what you do. So you just try to play that as well as you can."
"So for me, now, it's much more just discovering in the moment. There's not a lot of homework that goes into it. You learn your lines, and you try to be present and try not to get caught acting."
Before we get too judgmental about Dempsey's attitude, think about your own life. Are you excited to go to work every morning? Or do you sound sort of like him?
"I'm an actor, so that's my profession," he said. "That's my job. It's a trade."
That's not true of all actors. Especially the young and hungry ones.
But Dempsey is 47; his first movie role came when he was 19; and he's got tens of millions of dollars.
And as passionate as fans of "Grey's Anatomy" can be, his passion lies elsewhere. He described his TV job as being about "endurance," whereas racing is "very exciting and keeps me alive. And then I can go back to work and enjoy it. So I think I need both, quite honestly."
Clearly, he'd rather be racing. "I'm grateful I have the ['Grey's Anatomy'] gig," Dempsey said, "but it's not the same as being in a race car. It's just not."
Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. He can be reached at email@example.com or 801-257-8603. Follow him on Twitter @scottdpierce.