Grey’s Anatomy boss talks surprise return for major character

It was an emotional reunion for Meredith Grey. **SPOILERS FOR SEASON 17 PREMIERE**

Ellen Pompeo in Grey's Anatomy season 17

Grey’s Anatomy fans were shocked last night when a beloved character from the show’s past reappeared.

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Now in its 17th season, the medical drama is tackling the coronavirus pandemic in its current storylines, with Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff wishing to “honour the reality” of the health crisis – in particular, how it has affected those on the front lines.

However, there was also a desire to keep the lighter aspects of the show intact, which is what inspired the return of the aforementioned figure from Meredith Grey’s past.

Read on for more details, but beware of spoilers ahead.

As some fans will now be well aware, Patrick Dempsey is back as Derek Shepherd, reprising his role for the first time since his dramatic exit from the series in season 11.

The character was written out under tragic circumstances, dying from a serious head injury shortly after a terrible car accident, which is a devastating loss for his wife Meredith and their three children.

When Meredith herself has a near-death experience in the season 17 premiere, she has a vision of Derek on a picturesque beach where she tells him that she misses him.

Dempsey returned to shoot new scenes for the shock reveal, which Vernoff has said was kept top secret – even from many of the people who work on the show.

In a statement, Vernoff added: “The most important task we had this season was to honor the reality of this global pandemic and the impact it’s having — particularly on healthcare workers. Along with that, we had to come up with creative ways to allow our show to still be fun and romantic and provide some escapism.

“Enter Patrick Dempsey. The beach motif — which will continue beyond the premiere — provided a way for us to live outside the pandemic even for a little while here and there. And Derek’s return provided pure joy for us, for Meredith, and for the fans.

“Season 17 has been a Herculean effort by our cast, our crew, our writers, and our partners at Disney and ABC — and we are proud of it. But our effort is nothing compared to the work of our Frontline healthcare workers to whom this season is dedicated.

“We hope our show inspires you to wear your masks to protect them and each other. As Derek Shepherd would say, ‘It’s a beautiful day to save lives.'”

Dempsey will appear again in season 17 as Meredith begins to recover, as teased in the trailer below:

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Grey’s Anatomy season 17 is currently airing in the US but a Sky Witness UK air date has yet to be confirmed. Season 1-15 are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Sign up for Amazon Prime for £7.99 a month with a 30-day free trial. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.