Patrick Dempsey, known to many millions worldwide as Dr McDreamy from US network series Grey’s Anatomy, is learning new lines. But what he means by that depends on who he is talking to, and where.
The 48-year-old, ranked fifth on the list of highest paid actors on US television last year with estimated earnings of $13 million, is preparing for an 11th season as Dr Derek Shepherd in the popular ABC network medical drama.
The first “table-read” of the script starts on the 22nd, next Tuesday, but first he has other lines to figure out - racing lines - and his own dreams to realize.
This weekend, the fictional white-coated surgeon from Seattle is getting up to speed around Germany’s Hockenheim circuit where he competes in the Porsche Supercup series against professional drivers.
Motor racing is not just a hobby. It has become as much a part of who he is as acting. “It’s all consuming in many ways,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine not racing right now. It really keeps me motivated. It’s all I think about on a daily basis.
“I just truly love it. I love the sport, I love the people around the sport, I love the technical aspect of it. I love the mental exercise of it and the constant learning of how to perfect the setup of the car.”
Big screen legends Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and James Garner were all similarly smitten by the racing bug in their time and Dempsey can understand why.
As someone who earns big money playing fictional characters in fantasy worlds, racing is real and dangerous with challenges lacking elsewhere.
“I think it’s important for me to do both (acting and racing),” said the married father of three when asked which mattered most to him.
“I don’t dislike acting. There are just certain challenges I’d like to have in my acting profession and I haven’t found those roles that have really made it worthwhile for me to give up a racing season to go do,” he said.
Last month Dempsey competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours race, finishing fifth in his GTE-AM class after fourth in 2013. He made his debut there back in 2009. The owner of Dempsey Racing has taken part in the grueling Baja 1,000 off-road race, driven at Daytona and will be at Indianapolis the week after he meets up with the rest of the Grey’s cast.
“I think it brings me back to that part of my life as a child. I have just always loved cars and racing. My father was a big fan of it, I used to collect Matchbox cars and on a Friday night my dad would always bring me one home. I was a huge fan of racing and then slowly just got deeper and deeper into it,” added Dempsey.
The real commitment started some six or seven years ago, when Dempsey did a course and obtained his racing license before attending the Panoz Racing school at Road Atlanta.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.
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