Dempsey can’t recall exactly when he became persona non grata in Hollywood, he says, because “right when you thought you had it, it was well over. You’re no longer the new kid on the block everybody loves. You go into a room and you’re the recognized one everybody despises. There’s this feeling of just being completely outside of all that is cool and accepted and liked.”
He was, by his own account, saved by the love of a good woman: Jillian Fink, whom he met in 1994 when he went to her salon for a haircut. They didn’t start dating until three years later, after he’d divorced Parker and gone back to his hometown in Maine to shake off the slow-motion implosion of his career and his marriage: “I was frustrated because I was like, [my career so far] is not how I want to be known. I didn’t want that to be my legacy.” He returned to Hollywood thinking, “Now I need to go and slay the dragon,” he says. “And I think Jill has really helped enable me to do that. She gave me the kingdom. Certainly that’s why my career has turned around. I feel comfortable and stable at home.”
His BlackBerry chirps. “My wife,” he says, thumbs flying as he sends her a text. Fink, who’s pregnant with twin boys and at home with the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Talula, is wondering when he’ll be home. “We’ll see what her response is . . .”
Is she the boss of him? Dempsey laughs. Come on, does Jill boss him around? “What wife doesn’t?” he replies. And then, “She doesn’t boss me around. But she certainly is strong enough to let me know where she stands. I want a strong woman. Otherwise I wouldn’t be married to her.” Their marriage is in its seventh year, and according to Dempsey, there’s never been a single itch. “I’ll tell you, the last year has been the best year of my marriage. It seems like we’re communicating better than we ever have.”
“Jill’s good for him,” says Ellen Pompeo, his Grey’s flame. “I think maybe Patrick needs discipline. I don’t want to make it sound like Jill’s a dominatrix, but structure is something he craves. To me, what stands out about him the most is his sense of duty to his family. Jill’s a really lucky girl that way. Women throw themselves at him. I’ve never seen him flirt, you know, in a serious way. He’s always looking at his watch or phone‘Gotta get home to the girls.’”
Dempsey’s BlackBerry rings again. This time he ignores it.
He swirls the wine in his glass, takes a sip, and winces. “Let’s give it up,” he says. “We should get some new wine.” Little Goldblum is summoned.
“Can we see the wine list again?” he asks. “She’s not happy with this wine.”