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Isaiah Washington Speaks Out On Firing

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The controversial and much-discussed Grey's Anatomy star breaks his silence and shares his thoughts with Entertainment Weekly about being fired from hit ABC drama, his relationship with the cast, and his future ...

Debonair

Entertainment Weekly: How are you feeling about what happened last week? Did you think it was fair?
Isaiah Washington: I don't know if it's a question of "fair." I'm saddened by it. I did everything that the producers and the network asked me to do. I came back under great duress and stress, and thought I was doing the job I was hired to do. I thought that was going to speak for my future at Grey's Anatomy, but apparently that wasn't the same vision that the network and studio had for me.

Entertainment Weekly: Why do you think the decision was made by ABC? Was Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes happy about it?
Isaiah Washington: I knew she was aware of the decision. But you have to understand, she's at the helm of one of the top-rated shows on television.

Entertainment Weekly: Were you in touch with Shonda Rhimes after you were fired?
Isaiah Washington: She called me on Thursday of last week [June 7] and told me that I would not be returning to the show. Just like she personally called me and invited me to the show. It was full circle.

Entertainment Weekly:
When was the last time you talked to Shonda?
Isaiah Washington: Yesterday.

Entertainment Weekly: There are rumors you may file a lawsuit against ABC.
Isaiah Washington: I don't know anything about that.

Entertainment Weekly: Have you heard from many of your castmates?
Isaiah Washington: No. Everyone is still on vacation. I don't expect to hear from my castmates. I did talk to Chandra Wilson and I got a text message from Kate Walsh. Everyone's doing their own thing. People are still trying to enjoy their summer before they get back to the grind. I think a lot of people are out of the country. I'm still getting calls from people discovering that this change has occurred.

[NOTE: EW also spotted Washington receiving a hug and hi-five from former guest star Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny Duquette) at the Chateau Marmont in L.A. the day he was let go.]

Entertainment Weekly: Would you consider you and T.R. Knight to be on good terms?
Isaiah Washington: I don't know. You have to ask T.R. that.

Entertainment Weekly: Anything you'll miss about Grey's Anatomy?
Isaiah Washington: I'll miss working with the team. I think the past season we got our rite of passage and we pretty much all learned what we can and we can't do... like any other new show or fledgling child trying to find its legs. Season 4 is going to be stronger, better and wiser and smarter, and I had hoped to be a contributor to that. That's not the reality.

Entertainment Weekly: There are rumors that you were originally supposed to be the lead in a Grey's Anatomy spin-off (eventually written for Kate Walsh and Private Practice). Did Shonda ever approach you?
Isaiah Washington: Me for a spin-off? No. No. Never. I love Shonda Rhimes and her writing ability and I felt like she made me a better actor because of her talent. I was invited back by Shonda to be part of the team and I always had a team player mentality about that. I took it as a humbling opportunity to be invited and be part of the team. I'm going to miss her writing. She's an extraordinary talent. She's very collaborative and allowed me to create the Dr. Burke that the world has grown to love.

Entertainment Weekly: Would you be open to cameo on Grey's?
Isaiah Washington: Dr. Preston Burke is probably the greatest challenge I've ever had. I've studied the medical world extensively. I enjoy surgeons and I'm glad they do what they do and I gave it everything I had. If Shonda calls me and says, ''Look, we want you to do something for Grey's Anatomy'' I probably would not hesitate. But I don't really see that happening.

Entertainment Weekly: How do you think this is going to affect your career?
Isaiah Washington: I'm working right now [on the indie film, The Least of These]. I can only take one day at a time. I can only apologize so many times. I can only accept so much responsibility. All the players involved have taken care of what we needed to take care of in-house �" and the media took it in a different direction. I hope that everyone is happy for the outcome for Isaiah, but Isaiah will go on and do what I love to do. And I have to go about the business of letting people know what's written about me is not the truth. I'm merely an actor, a husband, and a father who's trying to do a great job and be very grateful and understanding that I'm in a very privileged position. This isn't a time for me to be looking back; it's only a time for me to be looking forward. I just hope people can understand in the industry and otherwise that it's a horrible misunderstanding what transpired with our show and it was blown out of proportion. If the naysayers out there feel that some justice has been served and that they're happy with the outcome, so be it. It's incumbent on me to take what I do, do it well, grow from the experience, and move on.

Entertainment Weekly: Do you have any concerns about being labeled as difficult as an actor?
Isaiah Washington: Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to address a lot of that down the road. It'd be very cleansing for my soul to let the fans and the general public see a side of me that I feel was horribly represented in the press.

Entertainment Weekly: What type of offers have you received?
Isaiah Washington: I've gotten a ton of offers in both film and TV, and now my agent Ben Press and I are just sorting through all the options. There is one network in particular that's very interested. But I don't want to say anything specific until it's a done deal.

Entertainment Weekly: Why did you decide to make the movie The Least of These?
Isaiah Washington: Actually, I decided to do the part based on the recommendation of Sandra Oh. I was telling her about it last fall and she felt it was a strong role that would be good for me. Since Sandra is a Golden Globe winner among other things I always take her advice. She's a smart lady.

Entertainment Weekly: Would you work with ABC again?
Isaiah Washington: [Laughs] I don't know. That's up to ABC.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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    34 Comments New Comment Subscribe

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    Well, when we began to watch the show, I used to resent Burke's character and feel poor Patrick Dempsey gets less importance...lol coz I felt Dempsey was the hero. Gradually I was so drawn to IW's character Dr. Burke, that I could not take my eyes off him. The Burktina romance that developed, was charming considering usually I am pretty cynical about soaps . It just sneaked up on me and I found it sweet and heartwarming. I noticed that IW has a repertoire of emotional expressions which the cutiepie Dempsey has never been able to compete with, and I forgot PD altogether. IW stands alone in his depth on this show, it looks shallow w/o him. IW managed to impress so much that he was the one we wanted to watch. Burke is larger than life on the show. Removing him, was like chopping off one of four legs of a table. I doubt it remains functional. Sad decision when networks get threatened and held to ransom by churlish groups of revengeful petitioners demanding to fire IW. ABC should have stood by their cast member and the media-created lunacy would have died down. His own network let him down, his cup of sorrow was full.

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    I wil miss Dr. Preston burke (IW), his character actually inspired me. i'm a medical student. its not fair! you know what shondra, abc?
    Grey's anatomy'll never be d same without preston burke( isaiah washington).. u guys will miss him!

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    July 27, 2007

    I have been an educational administrator for many years and Grey's is one of few shows in many years that I take the time to watch on a regular basis. It is primarily because I have a daughter at Yale that is a surgical resident at the time a younger daughter who aspires to be an actress. The situation with Washington concerns me at many levels. Especially the future workplace rights of my younger daughter as an actress!!

    I absolutely believe in Freedom of Speech (in its proper place and context), due process and equality and treatment for everyone. Mr. Washington was not given any of these!!

    We all know that Mr. Washington did say things in the workplace that were not appropriate,..... but did Mr. Dempsey get any type of reprimand for his involvement in the initial argument/incident?? "NO!!" Was he not insubordinate of his contractual duties by not being on the job on time? Most of us would have been fired for that...especially if it cost our company alot of money!

    What about T. J. Knight's exploitation of the situation on National Television on Ellen's Show? This should have been some type of major violation of his contractual clause, at best!!! This could be construed as defamation Mr. Washington's character especially since Mr. Knight was known to not have even been there when the incident between Washington and Dempsey took place!

    I am calling for the equal reprimand treatment for Mr. Knight's behavior as well as Mr. Dempsey's.... equally and appropriate. Shondra has definitely shown her inexperience in all of the situations. She may be a great writer, but is a terrible administrator of people, staff, personalities, problems and circumstances!

    Now, we see Mr. Knight nominated for an Emmy when everyone clearly knows that his role on Grey's has been minor and undeveloped.... compared to the more complex roles of the others. Does ABC think that the public is naive!!....We know that there is politics involved in Knight's nomination!!Could it be that Knight's Superiors want to promote their "gay" political agendas on the rest of the acting and viewing world?!?...and so they have exploited this situation?

    They are using you, Shondra, and you have caved into it because of your own fears and inexperience. You have sold a piece of yourself,.... and the creative, sensitive and talented person in you should be feeling that deeply by now...because there is no going back. Once you sell yourself, it is a piece of independent and free creative genius that you will not recover.

    The behaviors of Knight and Dempsey went forward without consequences and were unfair to Washington and everyone in the acting field as well. Since when were such harsh sanctions like the ones placed on Washington ever placed on any actor in the VERY LIBERAL Hollywood scene? Sure hope you did not sell out for some type of money deal, Shondra!!

    Mr. Washington must have played his character as was scripted, written and required of him. We saw it produced in the final product weekly. Evidently it was done in spite of the working conditions and human emotions that do tend to happen from time to time in ANY workplace.

    What type of code of conduct for the workplace did Mr. Washington actually break? Did he break contractual conduct rules that did not apply to Dempsey or Knight? Was Washington given his due process fully and equitable in the termination process? Why were these not applied to the others in their individual actions??

    I can not see how this could actually take place under your watch, Shondra..... when the other two actors had no consequence for their inappropriate behaviors and responses as well....ESPECIALLY Knight on National TV!!

    Are other actors treated as Washington has been??..... (terminated) for conducting themselves inappropriate or saying something controversial at the workplace? How many other actors have had similar incidents during their jobs and have not been fired? So many other actors have been found in worse conduct and situations and they have NOT lost their jobs!!

    This is a very serious consequence for the workplace and for future actors!! Do all actors want to be in fear for their jobs if something happens to slip out of their mouths!! What if Knight called Callie's character a "wh..." off camera on the set while upset with her for something totally unrelated to his character lines??? Would he be exploited in the same way and terminated??? Would Callie's character not be reprimanded for going public with it?

    All actors in Hollywood and else where.... should be outraged at ABC's treatment of Washington, because they could be NEXT!! I believe that Mr. Washington should sue the network and fight for what is just for every one's sake..... especially if he did not break any contractual code of behavior that the other two actors did not measure up to as well. Of course, if due process was not given...he should really proceed. Things should be equitable and fair for each one of these actors, and we all know very well that the others are not "clean" in their participation and exploitation of the situation.

    Disney and ABC are ultimately trying to promote their own philosophies and viewpoints at the cost of injustice and their own prejudice toward anyone who is not on their "gay rights" agenda. Was a "pro gay" prerequisite part of the contract for ABC?? Maybe the powers that be are all "gay" and got their feelings hurt here?? That IS always possible. Now, I do not want you to think that I am anti-gay, because I have many gay friends that I hold near and dear....I just feel that fairness should be just that....FAIR to ALL!

    I do not think any of us... in this day and age, and especially in the acting world, can really believe that Washington is against the gay community....even with the slur!! We all know it was uptight, angry testosterone between two men that caused the incident....then it was settled quickly between them. Because it is Hollywood, you would expect some sensationalism, but not to the extent of firing someone!!

    I can't even tell you how many little boys have come to my office because they call each other the word that Mr. Washington used when they are mad or huffy with each other. They most often shake and are over it at the end of a good lecture!
    They don't get kicked out of school, and neither should have Mr. Washington been removed from his job!!

    Grow up Shondra and ABC...this is nonsense reactionary protocol and could very much leave you open for a huge lawsuit...Hope it does happen, but I suspect that Mr. Washington is the bigger person and wants to move on....This will now set a very bad precedence for other actors....in the workplace. Your Civil rights and Freedom of Speech, actors have just gone out the door!!

    If Washington had consequences then let's hear what the other two men received. This clearly smells of some racial biases as well.... and if you are wondering, I am not black, but believe in equality for everyone....

    Shondra is not thinking clearly if she truly believes that Washington's character does not bring the depth and stability that her show actually needs. If she caved into her bosses, or was reacting because Washington pulled the microphone from her center stage interview...thereby taking away from her thunder....then she is quite shallow and not a deserving leader for any show!! She needs to care about her actors and characters more than her moment of limelight at the Emmy's taken away from her by he Washington incident. Sure Washington's behavior was again very inappropriate, but I doubt that he would have behaved in this manner had he been given any type of official warning for the first incident........

    Shame on you Shondra at the end of the day.....Your children (characters/actors) will always need some discipline here and there...but you don't kick them out of the school for good. You help them along in all of their mistakes and bring harmony to the class once again..... Shondra we are VERY disappointed in you and your obvious inability to stand firm against the network politics...

    Maybe you should have called your friend Oprah for advise....She could have helped you do the right thing, and not fire Mr. Washington. Oprah would have shown you how to have disciplined you three bruts equally, and properly....so that the second incident might not have occurred.

    Oprah could have helped you handle the incident with Washington at the Emmy's. It was a big mistake on National TV and did embarrass you greatly, but it was not irreparable!!

    You have hurt yourself, Shondra, in the long run and your self integrity. Fans want to see the people who started the whole thing, and Washington, as well as Knight and Dempsey and the others are ALL part of it.....Learn how to be a much better leader so that you do not make huge mistakes like this again especially because of your own pride, inexperience and fear of others (mostly your superiors..). You have lost much more than you realize, but you know that deep inside already! You are not justified, you are simply an inexperienced person who is scared to lose it all now! Do better for everyone, this is not over...one of your own has been terribly hurt and you did not protect or take care of him....You have lost credibility with the others, just don't know it yet!!

    Yes, I know I'm rambling on, but my husband and I smell a set up and excuse to get rid of Washington....the truth has a way of coming out sooner or late Ms. Shondra! Thnk of the resounding effects here for all actors. Mr. Washington probably will not sue so that he can keep on working...but sooner or later there will be an actor that WILL!

    For all the other actors on Grey's who did not stand up for this injustice, you will be next....when they do not want you around anymore. A thief strikes in the same manner, you are not protected because you have kept quiet!!

    Unhappy about the loss of the right to the "Freedom to be Human" for all actors in the future...

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    Earlier today I logged on, and I've been so depressed ever since...that ignorance was allowed to post such horrible things, The N word was used over and over again...lynching, crimes of hate, crimes of unbelievable proportions took place here...I feel to not only stop watching the show, but not any longer watch ABC...period..you suppose to be people that does not support this kind of act...and this kind of act is shown all through your boards..letting people say horrible things about other races, and gender...you are a fake and unbelievable to my own eyes that you could allow people to speak as such...I am so afraid of what's to become of people..it shows clearly that racism is alive and well and rampant..Isiah please bring out the truth..so we can move to the place of comfort...tell what is right , and don't stray...I tried to contact CNN and all the oher networks to show what was shown here...you should be ashamed of yourselves..for what I seen today...it's all over ABC boards...the horror...! true horror...I am saddened and ashamed! that this is the woman who is on my promise board to be like and to carry a word of the wise...that you can be whatever you want to be, no matter what color, or creed, or gender...clearly, it's not true..and the fight is a never ending battle...you wake up with the color of black, you wake up and can't hide behind sun glasses, money, or creed...you wake up with it every day, there's no hiding when your skin is not equal...78% of black women remain single, 88% are stricken with aids, 98% are rarising families on their own, 89% of crimes against race or amongst blacks...you can go to the consensus board and check the figures...it's shameful really...when is it going to stop..?

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    Who care's? Life goes on. If you are stupid enough to put your foot in your mouth when you are in the public's eye, so be it. The network has to maintain and think of the whole cast.

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    Between the incident with PD and the slur, I can't say that IW should not have been fired. However, Burke was one of my favorite characters and as an African-American worman, he was my eye candy too! I have to admit that I don't have the same level of excitement about GA ... it's all very sad ...

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    How Grey's Anatomy can be Grey's Anatomy without Dr Preston Burke in the show...?

    He is the major asset in the show...please bring him back...please...

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    Firing Isaiah Washington is the same as vanishing viewers' dream. Viewers just want to follow the whole journey of the initial casts, viewers want to see them finish the race, viewers want to watch burke and cristina get married, and it is so heartbreaking that it is not gonna happen. Without his presence, Grey's Anatomy will not ever be the same again.

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    She may not have had a lot to do with his firing, but I have to wonder if some sort of incentive was giving to her not to stand behind him...Private Practice? And I know how ruthless networks can be and the industry itself. Everthing just reminds be of why I hadn't watch television in years.

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    I'm upset over the situation. Washington is an amazing actor and Burke is an amazing character. Other castmates have not spoken ill of IW and even the outspoken Heigl said recently that he apologized and she accepted. Washington is not homophobic, he just said something completely wrong and innapropriate. IW kids play with Mellisa Etheridges kids and she had been out of the closet for years/ No one can disagree that what he said was wrong, but come on! People say stupid offensive crap all day long and they dont get fired for it! ABC should not be burning bridges with such a talented man! As for SR, i doubt she had a whole lot to do with his firing. It was her superiors who made the final call.




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