Jeffrey Dean Morgan Reflects Upon Denny

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He did not go gently, and death was definitely not proud.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan hoped, prayed, schemed and finally begged for the life of his Grey's Anatomy character, Denny Duquette, according to the L.A. Times. At one point, he marched into the office of creator / executive producer Shonda Rhimes, turned on the charm and pleaded.
One Happy Man

"Please, please, just let me live," Morgan asked.

Rhimes was sympathetic, but unwavering. On the season finale, as fans have lamented for weeks now, Denny survived a difficult heart transplant, asked Izzie to marry him, then succumbed to a stroke. Denny quietly breathed his last with no one in the room (save 20 million viewers at home).

"It was a grim day, let me tell you. A dark, grim day. I'm still not over it. It broke my heart to leave that show," said Morgan of his death scene.

In becoming one of TV's top hits, Grey's Anatomy has built and maintained a devoted following, many of whom held out hope that the ailing patient would somehow pull through. Fans have voiced sorrow and outrage since his death. Some are even in denial to the point where they believe Denny may somehow come back to life.

"I don't think so," Morgan said, grinning. "I mean, I was blue."

But there is life after death for the actor, who has toiled for 15 years with guest roles on pretty much every TV show you can think of. Fans are approaching him in public, old friends are coming out of the woodwork and producers who wouldn't have given him the time of day a year ago are suddenly calling.

"It's very weird. I mean, I've been kicking around this town for years. For an actor, it's usually just about paying the mortgage and keeping the dog fed. But now I can actually think about the kind of projects I want to do. Now I can actually say no if I want," Morgan said.

Leaning back with an iced coffee in a cafe in Toluca Lake, Calif., where he resides, Morgan has the look of someone who can't quite believe he's in the position he's in. He had, in fact, turned down an audition that day, since he just agreed to do a movie starring Lisa Kudrow and Teri Garr that begins shooting next week in Austin, Texas.

"It's a small part," Morgan said. "But can you imagine, Lisa Kudrow? And Teri Garr? I mean, Tootsie, that's just amazing."

Of course, life's not perfect, and if he had been able to choose precisely what he wanted to do, Morgan would be back on Grey's Anatomy.

"Oh, I came up with lots of ideas for how I could come back," he said. "I mean, what if Denny had a twin brother named Lenny, who was a pediatric surgeon? They need a pediatric surgeon in that hospital."

Yet he went into the Denny gig knowing he was a goner. Rhimes saw him as Mary-Louise Parker's dead husband on Weeds (Morgan jokes that it was his year, apparently, to play the dead and dying) and asked him to audition.

Shonda Rhimes is intensely secretive regarding plots, so Morgan was given only basic information. While he would appear in multiple episodes, his story arc would end eventually in the death of his character.

Which, at the time, was more than alright with Morgan. He thought initially that he might be brought in as a romantic diversion for Meredith, played by lead actress and narrator Ellen Pompeo. It wasn't until after he took the job and got a script that he realized his love interest would be Dr. Izzie Stevens, played by Katherine Heigl.

"No one knew how much the story would take on a life of its own," Morgan said. "I don't think even Shonda knew how the fans would be drawn to the romance. It was pretty incredible."

Over the course of his time on Grey's Anatomy, Morgan experienced what it was like to be a pivotal character in one of the hottest dramas on TV.

To an outsider, it might seem like an easy role. Morgan was in a hospital gown and lying bed for virtually every one of his scenes. Yet the confines of Denny's disease were what made the role so challenging.

"I definitely give it to the writers," he said. "They created a guy who could charm a room without moving, but it took a lot of effort."

Denny was seen out of bed only twice, once in his first episode — the only time you see him in regular clothes — and then towards the end, after his LVAD wire was implanted and he became a bit more mobile.

"I cannot tell you how excited I was to see a scene with him walking," Morgan joked. "I started thinking, 'oh, maybe he'll be able to go outside, maybe we'll get to go to Seattle.' Then I turn the page, and nope, he's falling down the stairs and back to bed."

Still, it was the best work an actor can get when flat on his back.

"I had no idea what it would be like. How attached I would get. To Denny and everyone there. It is such a great show, such a great group of people. It was the only time in my career when I didn't mind getting up at 5:30 in the morning, didn't mind the 16-hour days. I couldn't believe it. So yes, I fought to stay," Morgan said.

He and other cast members fought for Denny's life. Even the network itself threw in its two cents.

"We didn't get the final pages until, like, a day before shooting. At the table reading, I can't bear to look, but I'm sitting next to [Patrick] Dempsey, and he's flipping through to the end, and he's saying, 'I don't see it, man, I don't see a death scene. I think you're going to live,'" Morgan recalled.

The reason for that, of course, was that the death of Denny occupied about three lines of the script, at the very end. When he reached that point in the script, Morgan collapsed for his chair onto the floor. Heigl looked at him, sharing his pain.

In addition to being emotionally wrenching, the death scene was technically difficult. When Denny died, he simply looked momentarily puzzled, leaned back, and drifted off. But in an ensuing scene, Izzie was a basket case, lying next to his corpse and refusing to leave while her fellow interns tried to talk her out of the room.

"Everyone's saying, 'What we really need is for you not to breathe, Jeff,'" Morgan said. "And I'm like, 'It's a four-minute scene, man.' And Katie's right beside me, crying, bless her heart, but the tears are hitting me on the neck and... that was driving me crazy."

Still, he pulled it off and suddenly it was over -- a fact that still hasn't really resonated with the 40-year old.

"I have definitely been laying low for the last few weeks. I mean, how can they do the show without me? What's going to happen to Izzie? Who did Denny leave his money to? Are they going to have a funeral? They should definitely have a funeral," he said.

Distraught as he is over his own demise, Morgan realizes he is standing on the edge of opportunity. The choices he makes next could carry him, and his asking price, into another echelon. Or, he could simply fade away. A piece of Grey's Anatomy trivia.

"I'm just looking always for characters that change, because I want to get better, as an actor and as a person. But basically," said Morgan, who would like to do more movies as well as TV. "I'd really like to work with Shonda again; I would follow that woman anywhere."

Seek and you shall receive. Morgan recently became the first actor to be cast in the Untitled Shonda Rhimes Project, which will be filming this fall for an ABC piolt. As for who he's playing, Morgan has no clue. After all, we're talking about Shonda.

"She just told me it was the best character she'd ever written," he said. "That's good enough for me."

For now, he's trying to savor the moment.

"I am really going to try hard not to screw up. But in the end it's a crapshoot. You never know what's going to take off and what isn't. It's been great, though. I mean, it is great. Really great.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan Reflects Upon Denny

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


okay, I just have to say: Grey's anatomy is the best tv-series ever made! and Denny; the most charming caracter I've ever seen on TV. I just love him(!!), and cried for hour the day he died.
hmm.. I'm from Norway so I'm a couple of episodes behind the people who's left their comments here. But I just have to say that I can't wait to see how this is going to continue, and that I hope to see "Denny" again in another show or maybe a movie (he most certainly has got the talent for it) in the future :-) + Du har det nydeligste smilet!
(+ You've got the most beautiful smile)


ohhh i love denny!!!but why slept McSexy with Callie!?!she isnt very beautiful!i hate her!


Those eyes, that smile, the chemistry between Denny and Izzie. Season 2 has just finished this week in UK. Since he died on Sunday night I have watched all the scenes with him in a hundred times! And cried a hundred times more. I didn't even know JDM's name before but will be looking out for him now. OMG those smiling eyes :-)


Since JDM's departure last year, the show has taken a definite turn for the worse. People who have written in this conference have suggested that bringing Denny back from the dead would make the show into a soap opera. They didn't have to bring him back from the dead in order for this to happen. With all the characters sleeping with each other, it is officially in soap opera land. The show is so boring this year. The characters are awfully self-centred. I can't believe that Meredith hasn't told Izzie that she saw Denny during her near-death experience; as usual, Meredith has been too busy thinking about herself. Izzie is now in love with George ... huh? You mean to tell me that Shonda got us so emotionally invested in the Denny/Izzie storyline and within a year, Izzie now loves George ... give me a break! As well, Izzie is no longer likable, especially with the way that she treats Callie. She went from being one of my favorite characters to somebody that I don't enjoy watching anymore... what a shame! The only good episodes of this season have revolved around Denny (when the characters talked or thought about him and when JDM was physically on the show). Shonda, you killed Denny off and look what's happened to your program. It's gone downhill. You should have listened to everybody when they told you to keep him around. I'll keep watching until the end of this season, but that's it. My friends and I are going to focus on "Lost" now, a show that has not crashed like your show has, Shonda.


We miss you Jeffrey ( I mean DENNY!!!!!) I've cried your death for weeks. I've seen the final season more than 5 times, hoping that a miracle would happen and the end would change.I wished that would survive.I know It's insane but your caracter makes me crazy. It's so unfair!And It's really hard to see that the show is going on without you.The 'Twin' thing was a bright idea. I'm happy to see that Jeffrey is figting for his caracter as hard as his fans. Thank you for all the tears, Jeff. It hurts but, hell, It's so good! Usually, I don't cry for romantic or tragic scenes It's just "DENNY effect"! Good luck Jeffrey!


I don't know if you are going to see this comment, Mr. Morgan, but I think that you are F-I-N-E!! I have not had a chance to witness your other acting momments, however, if they are even close to your performance on Grey's Anatomy, I have no doubt that you are going to go far!!! Your smile alone lights up the television screen. I wish you the best of luck in all of you endeavors!


Saw Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Rachel Ray today, and he was delightful. There must be a way Shonda can bring him back. Even if it's a "twin brother" or an "angel." He really was great on Grey's Anatomy and so many people miss him on that show. He was a great asset to the show and a great actor in general. He was looking something to look forward to each Thursday nite at the end of the work week.


I just watched tonight's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" with "Denny" doing a recap of the show, and I was so thrilled to see him again and to finally catch his I could check him out on the web. I am a huge fan of Jeffery Dean Morgan on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Supernatural"...and if anyone else watches both probably felt like me when he died on BOTH shows!!! I was so upset...I figured if he died on one show, I could see him on the other...then he dies on BOTH!!!...go figure!!! I'm just glad to finally know his name so I can keep up with where to look for him next.




I LOVE DENNY!!! he is my mcdreamy! i dont want that
he die!!!OMG!OMG!OMG! and i saw izzy and denny when they marry in my dreams!bye bye ...


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

You almost died like men.


I miss my dad.