If you didn’t know, the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. “McDreamy”) could’ve been very different on Grey’s Anatomy if the original casting had panned out and the actor originally offered the role, the one and only Rob Lowe, had actually taken it. That’s right, Lowe could have been McDreamy, but doesn’t regret turning down the role in hindsight. Why’s that, you ask?
According to Us Weekly, during the March 25 podcast episode of WTF With Marc Maron, the former Parks and Recreation star said, “Dude, I turned down Grey’s Anatomy […] to play McDreamy,” going on to joke that it “probably cost me $70 million dollars!”
All that said, Lowe doesn’t seem to regret his decision. He said of his possible Grey’s casting that “at the end of the day, I watched it when it came out, and when they started calling the handsome doctor ‘McDreamy,’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s not for me.'”
As fans of the longest-running primetime medical drama in American television history know, Patrick Dempsey played McDreamy for 10 years. It’s hard to imagine anyone else as Derek, the man who stole Meredith Grey’s heart and formed a life with the talented doctor. But, as Lowe previously divulged in his 2011 memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, he had the role of McDreamy in the bag. However, he chose another part in a short-lived CBS drama, Dr. Vegas, which was canceled after five episodes in 2004.
“After a week of negotiating, my deal was done, although not yet signed,” Lowe wrote in his memoir, according to E! News. “It was then that I got an urgent call from the producers of a potential new show for ABC called Grey’s Anatomy. I agreed to meet with the people making Grey’s Anatomy. I had read it and loved it — the writing was crisp, real and very entertaining — and it’s always been a good idea to hear out talented people.”
He continued, “‘We would be thrilled if you would play Dr. Derek Shepherd,’ they said right off the bat. I was torn. Grey’s was a much better script; in fact, there was no comparison.” Lowe also added about his decision, “Year after year after year, all of ABC’s new dramas flopped. CBS was on a hot streak that continues to this day. Although Grey’s was a much better script, I chose Dr. Vegas. The odds were just too stacked.”
The entertainment industry is all about taking risks, and actors never know if a project will truly be a hit. Obviously, Lowe turning down McDreamy may sound like a huge mistake on his part, but he’s just fine with his choice. Plus, the actor has held many successful roles since his brief Dr. Vegas days, including on Parks and Recreation, Brothers & Sisters, and Code Black.
It doesn’t seem like Lowe has lost any sleep over not being Derek Shepherd, and good for him, because many other actors probably would have kicked themselves over the missed opportunity.