Patrick Galen Dempsey is the youngest of three children to parents Amanda, a school secretary and William, an insurance agent.
Dempsey's flair for entertaining was first spotted during childhood. On a ski trip he discovered his ski teacher was also in a vaudeville troupe and juggled in his spare time. Dempsey told him he wanted to learn too and after practicing endlessly at home, the teacher introduced him to professional clowns and jugglers. Soon he had the bug, even taking second place in an International Juggler's Competition in 1982.
Living in Maine, the town unexpectedly became a hotbed for a new vaudevillian movement and after dropping out of high school in his senior year Dempsey developed his own act aged 15 and toured with the New England Vaudeville Circuit as a juggler, unicyclist, comedian and magician. His determination to make it big was clear from the start and he got his chance to shine when he was spotted by an agent and asked to audition for the part of David in a stage production of 'Torch Song Trilogy'. He got the part and spent the next four months touring with the company in San Francisco.
Next followed another stage tour with Dempsey playing the lead role in 'Brighton Beach Memoirs', and further stage appearances in 'The Subject Was Roses' at the Roundabout Theatre in New York and 'On Golden Pond' with the Maine Acting Company. Dempsey's big screen break came in the film 'In the Mood' (1987), which gained the 21-year-old favourable reviews and won the hearts of many critics. In an ironic twist, his part of a womanising teenager who seduces and marries an older woman reflected Dempsey's real-life personal situation.
In the same year he married his manager Rocky Parker, who was 27 years his senior. The marriage ended in divorce in 1994. 'Can't Buy Me Love' followed Dempsey's screen breakthrough and won him a legion of faithful female fans, thanks to playing a nerd who offers to pay a girl $1,000 to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month.
In the early 1990s Dempsey continued his career with a stream of television appearances, several of which were pilot episodes that failed to be picked up for a series - this included the lead in 'About A Boy' as Will, the role made famous by Hugh Grant in the film version. A TV role which propelled him into the limelight was the immensely popular 'Will & Grace' (2000), in a reoccurring part as Will's boyfriend. An Emmy nomination was to follow in 2001 as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his turn in 'Once & Again' alongside Sela Ward.
Raising his profile further, Dempsey starred as Reese Witherspoon's love interest in 'Sweet Home Alabama' (2002) which was a massive box office success and he also took a role in the cult Scream franchise in 'Scream 3'. However Dempsey's highest profile role was to come in the acclaimed US series, 'Grey's Anatomy'.
Before auditioning for the series, he had in fact tested for the part of Dr Gregory House in the hit show, 'House', which was eventually won by Hugh Laurie. Instead, Dempsey found himself as a mid-season replacement playing Dr Derek Shepherd in 'Grey's Anatomy'. His budding on-screen romance with intern Meredith, played by Ellen Pompeo, was to become a major element of the show's success. Dempsey's role in the show was rewarded in 2007 with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a television series. Regarding the eighth season of the show, Dempsey said: "It will be my last. I do not know about the other characters. But for me it's over."
His publicist then released a statement saying Dempsey was referring to the fact his contract ends after the eighth season and he is unsure of what will happen. On 30 June 2011, Dempsey revealed he will be in season eight of the show on Lopez Tonight.
Following his divorce from Rocky Parker in 1994, Dempsey married Jillian Fink in 1999, a make-up artist and founder of her own beauty company. The pair remain a solid couple, despite the continuous sex-symbol hype Dempsey endures, instead preferring a settled family life with their three children. Daughter Tallulah Fyfe was born on 20 February 2002 and twins Sullivan Patrick and Darby Galen were born on 1 February 2007.
Dempsey's most recent roles include Disney's Christmas release 'Enchanted' (2007), and when he isn't being a dad or mooching on a film set he takes part in auto racing in his spare time, having raced in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. He was also a co-owner of the Vision Racing IndyCar series and current owner of Dempsey Racing. He himself tries to race when his schedule allows as he cannot partake when he is filming due to insurance issues. In 2011, he finished in third place at the Rolex 24 in Daytona. Dempsey also has a collection of sports cars.
In 2008, Dempsey returned to films, starring in the romantic comedy 'Made of Honour', followed by 'Valentine's Day' in which he played a doctor again in 2010. The following year, Dempsey appeared in 'Flypaper' and 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' - the third film in the franchise.
Dempsey epitomises the typical American success and has seemingly made life and career choices that refuse to conform to the current wave of rehab-happy celebrities who are too busy partying to play it serious. It certainly works for him though and he'll surely have the last laugh when his name appears on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.