‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Eric Dane shares surprising reason he was ‘let go’ from hit series amid addiction battle

There’s a “McSteamy” answer to why Eric Dane left the hit series “Grey’s Anatomy” in dramatic fashion in 2012.

The actor, who played the beloved plastic surgeon Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan, says when he booked the hit ABC show fronted by Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo, he’d been “sober for three or four years.”

“So I had my wits about me and I sort of knew what reality was and what reality wasn’t,” he shared on the “Armchair Expert” podcast with actor Dax Shepard. “And I was able to differentiate between the two. And I was able to sort of conceptualize what that was, keep it in its place, enjoy it, dip in every now and again and come back.”


“I think the net-net is I didn’t really handle it very well,” the actor, now 51, shared. “Because if you take the whole eight years on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ I was f—ed up longer than I was sober. And that’s when things started going sideways for me.”

Dane joined the show as a series regular in season three after his character generated buzz in a sizzling towel scene in the second season. 

Eric Dane in nothing but a towel as Dr. Mark Sloan and Kate Walsh in a bathrobe holding a glass of champagne as Dr. Addison Montgomery


Dane says he relapsed at some point during his stint on the show while trying to manage the expectations of playing such a revered and pined-for character on television. 

“It was overwhelming, and I think I just wanted to pretend that it wasn’t and that I was comfortable with it. Act like you’ve been there, but you haven’t been there,” he said. “It’s very hard to sort of digest,” he said of the fame.

Being labeled one of Hollywood’s hottest TV stars was not all it was cracked up to be for Dane. “That was weird for me because I never saw myself as that, it was a real source of self-doubt,” he explained. “I felt fraudulent.”

Eric Dane, Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh in scrubs on the set of "Grey's Anatomy"

“My exterior did not match my interior,” he added.

His character was killed off in the second episode of season nine, which aired in October 2012. In 2013, Dane told Entertainment Weekly that his departure was giving him a chance to explore other avenues. “‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is a world – it’s not about any one individual actor and the storylines were sort of… you know, heading in different directions. So it was an opportunity for me to go, and I was interested in something different.”

But on the new podcast, Dane revealed to Shepard that he’d actually been “let go” from the show.

Eric Dane looking serious as Dr. Mark Sloan in a blue suit on "Grey's Anatomy"

“I didn’t leave so much as I think I was let go,” he explained. “I was struggling. They didn’t let me go because of that, although it definitely didn’t help.” (Dane went to rehab in 2011 for a painkiller addiction.) “I was starting to become, as most of these actors who have spent significant time on a show, you start to become very expensive for the network. And the network knows that the show is gonna do what it’s gonna do, irrespective of who they keep on it. As long as they have their ‘Grey,’ they’re fine.”

“I wasn’t the same guy they had hired, so I had understood when I was let go. And [creator] Shonda [Rhimes] was really great. She protected us fiercely. She protected us publicly, she protected us privately.”

Eric Dane in a grey suit stands next to Shonda Rhimes who poses with a red trophy and stands nexxt to Taye Diggs and James Pickens

“I love Shonda Rhimes, and she protected me, but I was probably fired,” he admitted. “It wasn’t ceremoniously like, ‘You’re fired.’ It was just like… you’re not coming back.”

Rhimes previously attested to Entertainment Weekly that Dane “had been thinking” about exiting the show “for a while.” At the time, rumors swirled that Dane was not returning due to budget cuts.

Dane did return to “Grey’s Anatomy” in a dream sequence during season 17. The show aired its 20th season finale in May and has already been renewed for a 21st season.

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