However, Dempsey’s career began two decades before the medical drama premiered. He got his first major movie role at age 21 in the 1987 film In the Mood. Dempsey played real American teen Sonny Wisecarver, who became infamous in the 1940s for his affairs with older women.
The actor went on to play numerous heartthrobs and leading men over the years. Despite Dempsey’s reputation as one of the most handsome stars in Hollywood, he wasn’t always seen as “McDreamy” by his peers.
“I was really a small guy growing up and so I was ‘the amoeba.’ That was my nickname,” Dempsey shared during a 2016 appearance on Nightline. “It’s not your normal nickname. But I was a late bloomer.”
Keep scrolling for a look back at Dempsey’s life and career over the years: