Born and raised in Maine to a school secretary mother and an insurance salesman father, Patrick got his first taste of performing, surprisingly, via juggling—winning second place second place in the Juniors category at the 1981 International Jugglers’ Association Championship. But it was an invitation to audition for the tour of Harvey Fierstein’s play Torch Song Trilogy (spoiler alert: he booked it) that really set him on his life’s course.
One of his earliest roles was an appearance on The Disney Sunday Movie, as Kellin Taylor in A Fighting Choice (1986). By age 21, he’d been cast in his first two major film roles: In the Mood (1987) and—that same year—Touchstone Pictures’ Can’t Buy Me Love, where he caught some major teen-pop-culture attention. A host of film projects followed, such as Some Girls (1988), Hollywood Pictures’ Run (1991), Outbreak (1995), The Emperor’s Club (2002), Made of Honor (2008), and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016). Patrick’s television work has included a multi-episode stint on Will & Grace and an Emmy® Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role on ABC’s Once & Again. In 2002, he costarred in the popular Touchstone Pictures romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, opposite Reese Witherspoon.
Just three short years later, Patrick truly caught the cultural zeitgeist, landing the role of Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd on the ABC series Grey’s Anatomy. During his incredible 11-season run with the show—during which his character had a memorably stormy relationship and marriage with Dr. Meredith Grey, played by fellow 2022 Disney Legend inductee Ellen Pompeo—he was nominated for a Golden Globe® Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama, and appeared on several episodes of the Grey’s spinoff Private Practice. Most recently, in 2020, “McDreamy” made a very special re-appearance on the series, much to the delight of fans.
“It’s remarkable to be a working actor, and then on top of that to be on a show that’s visible,” Patrick said upon leaving Grey’s officially in 2015. “And then on top of that to be a phenomenal show that’s known around the world, and playing a character who is beloved around the world… It’s very heady.”
In the meantime, Patrick provided the voice of Kenai in Disney’s Brother Bear 2 (2006) and costarred alongside Amy Adams in the hit film Enchanted (2007), playing Robert Philip—an unsuspecting New Yorker caught up in an extraordinarily real fairy tale, complete with musical numbers and evil queens. He’ll soon be seen in the film’s anticipated sequel, Disenchanted—alongside fellow 2022 Disney Legend inductee Idina Menzel—coming to Disney+ later this year. In 2019, Patrick produced The Art of Racing in the Rain for 20th Century Fox.
Speaking of racing: Outside of film, TV, and stage, Patrick is a committed race car driver and has competed in prestigious pro-am events including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race. He was a co-owner of the Vision Racing IndyCar Series team, and is current owner of Dempsey Racing, which he founded in 2006.
After watching his mother’s journey with ovarian cancer, Patrick opened The Dempsey Center in 2008—a space where those impacted by cancer can find relief, comfort, and resources. Located in Maine, The Dempsey Center provides personalized and comprehensive cancer care at no cost. To help fund The Dempsey Center, Patrick started The Dempsey Challenge presented by Amgen, an annual run/walk/cycle fundraising experience that champions a spirit of celebration and a culture of paying it forward. Additionally, Patrick has worked with a multitude of other organizations over the years, including Seattle Children’s Hospital and Avon Foundation for Women.