Did Jeffrey Dean Morgan Actually Want To Stay On Grey's Anatomy?

While Jeffrey Dean Morgan may have made a name for himself as Negan Smith on "The Walking Dead," he's no stranger to iconic roles, having also played John Winchester in "Supernatural" and Denny Duquette on "Grey's Anatomy." He first appeared in Season 2 of "Grey's" as a charming heart patient from Seattle Grace Hospital, who ends up falling for surgical intern Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) while awaiting his transplant. Despite being one of the show's favorite couples, viewers were left shocked and heartbroken when Morgan's character was killed off in the Season 2 finale of ABC's mega-hit drama. In the episode "Losing My Religion," Denny died from a stroke following his heart transplant surgery and whirlwind engagement with Izzie.

Speaking with The Writers Guild Foundation, showrunner Shonda Rhimes said she "cried like a baby" when writing the script for Denny's death scene. "It sounds so sappy ... but it was so real to me when [Izzie's] lying in that bed and sort of saying, you know, 'I can't believe he's gone,'" Rhimes said. "And then when we shot the scene, we kept having to stop shooting because I was crying so loudly." Morgan also recalled shooting the heartbreaking scene in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 2006. "It was a grim day, let me tell you. A dark, grim day," he said, adding, "I'm still not over it." But how did Morgan feel about his exit from "Grey's" and did he actually want to stay on the show?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan 'begged' Shonda Rhimes not to kill his character

Jeffrey Dean Morgan said it broke his heart to leave "Grey's Anatomy" after an unforgettable season of playing the role of Denny Duquette. In his interview with The Los Angeles Times in 2006, the actor said he didn't expect to become so attached to his character and his co-stars. "I had no idea what it would be like ... 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," he said. While he knew his time with the show would be short-lived, Morgan said he tried everything to stay. Appearing on the YouTube show "Hot Ones" last May, Morgan admitted to pleading with show-runner Shonda Rhimes to consider letting his character live. "I was like, 'Please don't kill me! I will do anything,'" he said. "I did. I begged her."

It goes without saying that Morgan's role in "Grey's Anatomy" is one that he holds close to his chest — even to this day. "Grey's Anatomy, I knew was something special," Morgan said. "That character Denny and that love story with Izzie took the world by storm. I knew how f**king lucky I was to be there." He then credited the show for changing his life. "Being Denny, where I never got out of bed, is why Zack Snyder hired me to be the Comedian [in the 2009 film 'Watchmen']," the actor revealed on the podcast. "That's how special that was."

Jeffrey Dean Morgan almost appeared in Season 15 of Grey's Anatomy

In 2018, "Grey's Anatomy" showrunner Krista Vernoff revealed that she considered having Denny Duquette back for a brief cameo in Season 15's special Day of the Dead episode. Titled "Flowers Grow Out of My Grave," the episode featured the return of some of the most memorable characters on the show, including Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd, T.R. Knight as George O'Malley, and Kate Burton as Ellis Grey. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Vernoff said that an earlier version of that episode featured appearances from Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Denny and Kyle Chandler's Dylan Young (aka "the bomb squad guy" from Seasons 2 and 3). However, she said she decided not to go with that version as it "felt just like a stunt" above all else. "I didn't believe in the emotional reality that Denny and Dylan were visiting Meredith [Grey] on the Day of the Dead," explained Vernoff. "I figured they'd be visiting their own families... Denny is visiting Izzie, if anybody," she added.  

In the past, Morgan has expressed his desire to return to "Grey's Anatomy" in a fresh new role. In his interview with The Los Angeles Times, the actor — who last appeared in Season 5 of the long-running series — said he already had a few things in mind. "Oh, I came up with lots of ideas for how I could come back," he told the publication. "I mean, what if Denny had a twin brother named Lenny, who was a pediatric surgeon? They need a pediatric surgeon in that hospital," he said.