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.


hey, im from germany AND I LOVE GREYS ANATOMY AND JEFFREY IS MY McDREAMY!!! the episode where denny died havent i seen , because it wasnt in the TV it comes on the 10th april!!! AND I WILL BE CRY!!!(and i never cry by films or series)!!! bye bye... jenny


I am grateful for a show that is remarkable in it's character interaction and dynamic interplay. Mr. Jeff Morgan thank you! With your portrayal of Denny, you created a man that swept viewers (and Izzy) off their feet. Not an easily done today. Thank you Shonda Rhimes for creating Denny and selecting the perfect actor to pull it off. You make me want to watch this show every week and look forward to what you create in the future!


Why do they always kill off the eye candy??? :) denny was hot hot hot lol


I want to see him on a show where we can tune in every week and enjoy one whole hour of JDM some where some how I could listen to him Talk for Hours whata voice in the complete package.


Just bring Denny back! what he can do with just one smile is worth a million talking scenes


I really love jeffrey dean morgan, because i like his smile, and i never never but really never saw a man whit this smile, I think that with that smile it has to have a great sense of humor, and i never saw man who expressed so much whit the eyes, and I must say that I cries when I saw died, i really crie, i am just tryin to say thanks for this great performance and thanks for your beautiful smile and those eyes that say everything without a word, i want to see you again in other show or something.
p.d you have a fan in MÉXICO (I believe that many but I speak by my). and sorry by my bad english but i dont speak a lot and i really want to saw my point of view and i want to say I REALLY LOVE YOU JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN.
thank you. ;-)


OMG! OMG! OMG! I cried my eyes out for so long after denny died! he was my favorite charater i would do anything for him to come back! then again that would ruin it lol! but no the last new episode of when meredeth was spending time with him while she was dying i cried soooo hard! i recorded it on friday and watch it like everyday!!!! omg now izzie could hav lik stress cardiomyopathy or something! well not really just a lot of depression! and i miss denny!!!!!


jeffrey dean morgan, what an actor. my best friend bribed me with a fancy dinner to see grey's anatomy, 1st and 2nd season. now, i buy her a fancy dinner once a week to thank her for making me watch this show. it's costing me a fortune but it's money well spent. never have i seen an actor who can convey such emoitons with just his eyes and tears like love (while izzy is trying to convince him that cutting the lvad was the right thing to do), despair, hopelessness and joy while he's lying in bed. denny makes us, viewers, want to hold him, give him our hearts and, yes, marry him. when all is said and done, when this show becomes a part of triva games, when we choose the 'entertainment' category, we only need to say 'jeffrey dean morgan' for our partner to say 'grey's anatomy.' jeffrey, hurry up and make more movies because if you make us wait much longer, we will need help for our hearts to beat.


omg, I absolutely loved Denny and Izzy's relationship! I wasn't much of a Grey's Anatomy fan until Denny entire the scene. He made the show! I was devastated when he died. arg! He was so handsome, maculate and oh did I mention HANDSOME unlike "McDreamy"(that's getting old). I really was hoping that he would pull through...which would have continued my avid watching. However, the writers made a huge mistake by killing him. Denny was by far the best character on Grey's Anatomy!


i have writen a comment on another page about jeff morgan and this is my first time doing so,i was shocked when they wrote denny(jeff morgan) of the show i always watched the show just to see that man smile,i have never seen or meet a preson that could make me smile so much just watching them. he rode the role of denny out with the upmost talent,and has touched so may peoples hearts. thats what a true actor can do i hope to see more of jeff in tv and movies as a leading role.and maybe some day meeting him to see that great smile in person.


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.


Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)