He’s managed to do what so many before have failed: successfully navigate an acting career in both the film and television world – a feat worthy of celebration. But Patrick Dempsey has another reason to be festive.
Happy Birthday, Patrick Dempsey!
And that’s because he was born on January 13, 1966, in Lewiston, Maine, which means that this much-beloved performer is turning 55 years old today! After years spent with various touring productions and supplementing his income during lean times with juggling gigs and opportunities to dance, Dempsey made his film debut in the 1960s-set, school-age comedy Heaven Help Us (1985).
That was followed by starring roles in Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986), and The Magical World of Disney: A Fighting Choice (1986). In the former (which marked Caroline Rhea’s first motion picture), Dempsey was Rudy Gerner, a character previously played by Chris Makepeace. In the latter, Dempsey portrayed an epileptic teenager who sued to emancipate himself in order to undergo a risky brain operation.
Next, Dempsey starred in the TV comedy series Fast Times, a continuation of the hit film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which had helped actor Sean Penn make a name for himself. Dempsey again inherited a role once helmed by another, this time it was Robert Romanus’s Mike Damone.
After the show’s cancellation, Dempsey appeared opposite Beverly D’Angelo in the film In the Mood (1987), a biographical piece that told the story of Ellsworth “Sonny” Wisecarver, the so-called “child bridegroom” who, beginning at age 14, eloped with two women, both many years his senior. In a case of life imitating art, soon after the completion of the film, 21-year old Dempsey married actress and drama coach Rocky Parker, age 48.
Dempsey’s subsequent acting credits include several romantic comedies – Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), Some Girls (1988), Lover Boy (1989), and Happy Together (1989) – and more serious pieces like the World War II-era drama Shallow Grave (1988) and Mobsters (1991). He returned to the stage in 1991 in a production of The Subject Was Roses. In 1994, alongside Rocky Parker, he co-directed (and starred in) Ava’s Magical Adventure.
On the small screen, Dempsey played John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the miniseries J.F.K.: Reckless Youth (19993), Pierre Arronax in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), and Raskolnikov in Crime & Punishment (1998). He also had recurring roles on Will & Grace (1998) and the Sela Ward-vehicle Once and Again (2001).
In 2002, Dempsey took a role in Sweet Home Alabama, a romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon. Three years later, he debuted on Grey’s Anatomy as neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd (AKA McDreamy). The character’s romantic pairing opposite Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, proved extremely popular, and that love story served as a major plot point for the majority of the serial’s first 12 years. When Dempsey finally chose to step away from Grey’s, his character was killed off.
Dempsey’s other acting credits include the films Enchanted (2007), Maid of Honor (2008), Valentine’s Day (2010), and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016), and the TV drama series Devils (2020).
After a divorce from his first wife, Dempsey married make-up artist and Delux Beauty founder Jill. The couple has three children: daughter Tallulah Fyfe (born 2002), and twin sons Darby Galen and Sullivan Patrick (born 2007).
Dempsey is an avid sportscar racer (having participated in several Pro-AM events), a vintage car collector (his paycheck for the film Can’t Buy Me Love provided him the opportunity to buy his first, a 1963 Porsche 356 convertible), and a humanitarian who founded the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing in his hometown of Lewiston.
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