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Many of the new generation of Grey's Anatomy fans probably don't even realize that over the span of his life, Patrick Dempsey has had two distinct careers. In the '80s, he rose to popularity as an endearingly bumbling, nerdy teenager on the big screen. He then faded into obscurity before being reborn over the last decade as one of Hollywood's leading heartthrobs.
Raised in the small town of Buckfield, Maine, Patrick was never a strong student; his academic progress was hindered by his dyslexia. He studied theater and — wait for it — juggling as a teenager, performing in local productions and competing nationally (as, yes, a juggler) before dropping out of high school. But instead of joining the staff of his local supermarket or enrolling in clown college, he successfully pursued film stardom: after a series of bit parts, he scored high-profile roles in the 1987 hits In the Mood and Can't Buy Me Love. That year, he also made headlines when he wed Rochelle "Rocky" Parker, an acting coach who was not only a whopping 26 years his senior (Demi and Ashton, step off!), she was also his best friend Corey Parker's mother. Suddenly, the teen star was his best friend's stepfather, as well as the subject of tabloid speculation and ridicule. As Patrick attempted more serious roles, his popularity dwindled. (Oh, and he and Rocky divorced in 1994 after 7 years of marriage. Shocking.)
A series of guest spots on popular TV shows in the late '90s raised his visibility, and in 1999, he remarried with cosmetics maven Jill Fink. (She's sexy and age appropriate!) The couple now has three children. In 2002, a starring role opposite Reese Witherspoon in the rom-com Sweet Home Alabama revived Patrick's career. A few years later, he signed on to Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Derek Shepherd, cementing his new image as a mature romantic lead. (His show nickname, "Dr. McDreamy," didn't hurt that impression.) Audiences have eagerly embraced the new Patrick Dempsey, and he has won a Screen Actors Guild Award and a People’s Choice Award for his work on Grey's. Though his on-screen romances have been turbulent (to say the least), in his personal life, Patrick claims he is a true romantic. He says, "Through [Jill], I've learned that you need to have a life outside this business, otherwise you’ll be left feeling profoundly empty."
As Grey's Anatomy continues to rack up awards and attract millions of viewers, how much credit is Patrick due for its success? All we know is that as long as McDreamy keeps his hair, we'll keep watching.
PATRICK DEMPSEY FAST FACTS
Full name: Patrick Galen Dempsey
Grey's character: Dr. Derek Shepherd
Nickname: Dr. McDreamy
Date of birth: January 13, 1966
Hometown: Buckfield, Maine
Currently residing in: Los Angeles, California
Education: High school dropout (unfair!)
Twitter: McDreamy's too good for Twitter, apparently.
Bet you didn't know... Patrick enjoys racing cars in his spare time. He owns IndySeries team Vision Racing and Dempsey Racing, and he has driven the pace car at the Indy 500. This doc likes to go real fast.
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