Months of speculation over the fate of Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington came to an end Thursday night when TVGuide.com’s Michael Ausiello announced his sources had informed him that Washington would not be invited back when the show returns to the air in September.
Calls by Ausiello to Howard Bragman, Washington’s high-powered publicist, confirmed that the actor had received a call on Thursday telling him he was off the show. An ABC publicist further confirmed the network had declined to pick up Washington’s option for his role as Preston Burke, but would not specify a reason the network had done so. An Entertainment Weekly reporter reached Washington last night at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood, but the actor refused comment and has yet do so.
The news is gratifying for many in the gay community who had long felt ABC and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes had not handled the situation in an appropriate manner. Shortly after the initial incident, AfterElton.com called for Washington to be terminated, as did writer, director, producer, and Director’s Guild of America Vice President Paris Barclay in January.
The actor’s problems began last October on the set of Grey’s Anatomy when, according to The National Enquirer, Washington had assaulted fellow cast member Patrick Dempsey. Shortly afterwards, reports started to circulate that during the fight, Washington grabbed Dempsey by the throat and said, “I’m not your little faggot like T.R. [Knight].”
Those initial reports didn’t name Knight, but speculation quickly settled on the soft-spoken actor who plays Seattle Grace intern George O’Malley. Neither ABC nor series creator Shonda Rhimes addressed the situation publicly (and Rhimes still hasn't spoken out on the matter), and word was that the issue was being dealt with “internally”.
While ABC had nothing to say publicly (until finally issuing a statement on January 18th), Washington’s publicist at the time issued a statement after the fight saying, “Differences are inevitable. They were aired, resolved, and everyone has moved on.” Dempsey's spokeswoman added, “There was an argument on set. In any close knit family, sometimes people argue. But everybody made up and went back to work.”
Nonetheless, on October 19th, Knight released a statement to People Magazine saying, “I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I’d like to keep quiet any unnecessary rumors about sexuality. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I’m gay isn’t the most interesting part of me.”
No public action was taken against Washington, angering many gay groups that argued there was a double-standard in society involving the use of anti-gay slurs. The actor did finally release an apology saying “I sincerely regret my actions and the unfortunate use of words…I have nothing but respect for my co-workers…and have apologized.”
The issue appeared to have died down until this year’s Golden Globes in January when a reporter asked Rhimes a question backstage after the Grey’s cast had won a Golden Globe for Best Drama. Instead of allowing Rhimes to answer the question, Washington seized the microphone and said, “No, I did not call T.R. [Knight] a faggot. It did not happen.”
His statement appeared to directly contradict the apology he had issued the previous October. Rhimes further angered many in the gay community when during the same press conference she added, “I think the best statement is just that things were created in a very odd way by the press that were not necessarily completely reported as true.”