Shonda Rhimes Discusses Firing of Isaiah Washington, Reflects On Season 3

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Shonda Rhimes, Grey's Anatomy Creator
Shonda Rhimes has finally broken her silence.

Ever since Grey's Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington was released from the series two weeks ago, the world surrounding TV's top drama has been in a state of and upheaval.

But Rhimes, in an interview with Access Hollywood Thursday (June 14), as reported by Entertainment Weekly, says she is happy with how Isaiah Washington's character's story ended.

"I feel like we wrote the show in a way that really completes the story of Preston Burke, and that is a really strong thing," she said.

Burke broke off his wedding to Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and skipped out in the May 17 season finale of Grey's Anatomy.

The show will not recast the role with a new actor.

"I've said it before, I and I will say it again," Shonda Rhimes said. "I don't believe in replacing one actor with another. I think a replacement is a little bit odd in terms of somebody who has been on the show for three years."

The decision not to bring Washington back next season was the culmination of months of speculation after an ugly incident last fall, when the actor was accused of referring to co-star T.R. Knight by a gay slur in an on-set disagreement with castmate Patrick Dempsey.

Washington then reignited the turmoil when he dubiously repeated the slur in front of reporters backstage at the Golden Globes in January.

The embattled actor spoke publicly about his being let go for the first time earlier this week when he talked to

"I'm saddened by the outcome," he said. "I did everything 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, but apparently that wasn't the same vision that the network and studio had for me."

Despite the controversy over Washington's remarks - and over the star being dismissed, Shonda Rhimes told Access Hollwood that she viewed Season 3 as a positive one for the show.

"We won the Golden Globe this year," Rhimes stated. "I think the show took itself to new heights this year, I think we explored different things for women this year, I think we have had amazing guest casts this year. I think it's been a sweet, sweet year for us."

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


I am disappointed that a personal issue had to come and destroy a sensible and loved character like Preston Burke, reality cant be justified but spoiling the character was not called for and a true pity. i do hope that Shonda Rhimes can satisfy the gap that has been left.


Washington's character added drama to what had become a stale soap opera with cutesy, immature, self-centered Meredith running her mouth to the point that I want to scream. And not in a good way. What made me come back every week was Sandra Oh and Washington as a couple. They were tender, wacky, serious, vulnerable and flawed. In other words, all that we expect in a real relationship. The way the season finale ended was a cop out and a dissapointment. The writers were not faithful to the characters, but to the pressure of what was happening productionwise. And it was noticeable. You dissapointed your viewers. You dissapointed your fans. So guess what, I'm gone. In a season premier with new series to explore, this was a bad move. Ba-bye!


Hey--it's simple--Grey's Anatomy has jumped the shark. Too bad--so soon. But we can't suspend our logic anymore--


I am a newcommer to the GA, infact I started watching it a little before Christmas. One thing that kept me coming back for more was Dr. Burke and Christina's unpredictable relationship. We all make mistakes. I think his punishment is a little too harsh. I think we forget that this is that man's (I.W.)life. What if when we mess up someone snatches our llivelihood. Second chances are for every man. Always put yourself in the other man's shoes before we judge and we don't know what it was like working with him. What I do know is that one day the media is singing your praises and the next day it's crucify him. They can't be trusted because they are out for blood and could care less about that man's career and life. Isaiah Washington is a great actor and his presence will be greatly missed on Grey's Anatomy. There will be no Grey's Anatomy fourth season for me .


Grey's Anatomy will not be the same without Burke! Everyone makes mistakes and he showed his effort by taking the sensitivity course. I'm almost positive this will be the last season for Grey's Anatomy and the person who decided to let Burke go will look back and regret it. Obviously emotions got in the way and the reason he was fired wasn't because of the outstanding work he did, it was because some people were hurt and thought since they were in control they would just get rid of him. Thank God Jesus didn't cast the stones ABC has cast.


I don't approve of the Washington situation, however...I do think that he was a great character on Grey's and that it's a mistake to let him go. I am about sick to death of "George"...he's spineless and Meredith is wearing me out with her constant depression.....time for some of these folks to get a grip...We need Isaiah back.


I have LOVED Grey's Anatomy since it first started. The whole thing is just different than what's on TV today. You have a more diverse cast, you have characters that you hate to love, and you even have characters you love die off on you (Denny I still miss you). But it's different. It's not a half hour show about six friends and their antics; it's humor and drama. Shonda Rhimes is a genius for creating this show. I applaud her efforts as a woman, and as an African-American woman for exploring this new territory. As for Isaiah Washington, I loved Dr. Burk and Christina's relationship, but we all knew it would end. Deep down it wouldn't have lasted; they are too volatile for a marriage. Washington shouldn't have said what he said. There are consequences for what you say. Educators learned this long ago that is why teachers are very careful in how they phrase everything. You have to look past the fact that he plays a popular character on a show and see that what he said was wrong. If he had been a white male and had used the N-word, there wouldn't have been a discussion he'd have been gone in a heartbeat. The show will be different, but I have faith that they will come back from this whole situation, and the people who have said they won't watch anymore, I predict when season 4 starts, they'll be glued to their TV to see what happens!


Hi Vicky, I agree with you. I think about Shonda and the fact that she created Preston Burke. She said in an interview way back at the beginning that both Burke and Shepherd were parts of her dream guy. It must have been as hard for her to let go of Burke as it was for her to lose Isaiah. I agree that she had no choice. She works for ABC/Touchstone. If they said he had to go, he had to go. I thought the article by the guy from GLAAD was pretty interesting when he said pro-gay influential people would let their voices be heard and call for Isaiah to be fired. They knew when they asked him to make the Public Service Announcement to cover their own butts that they were not going to keep him. I hate the hypocrisy. It was unfair to both Isaiah and the fans of the character. I don't blame Shonda in the end, but I do blame her for not having more control of some of her cast that made the situation worse than it had to be for everyone including Isaiah. They have money. They could have hired a counselor of some sort to work with both Isaiah and TR Knight to come to some kind of understanding and resolution to this. To my knowledge it is still not resolved in TR Knight's mind even though we have all lost Isaiah because of it. Tonight I am taking comfort in your words though and hope that Isaiah goes on to do great things. I think he is a terrific actor and person and I really hope for good thiings for him. I wish they would change their decision and bring him back because I will really miss Preston Burke. It has to be heart breaking for Shonda. I am sure the intention was for Cristina and Burke to be the first married couple on the show prior to the Golden Globes. It would have been so much fun to watch them navigate the murky waters of marriage and career. I am so sorry that we will miss that.


Alexaholic, you are my personal hero (heroine) tonight. You worded my thoughts much better than i could have. I agree with every word of your post. Thank you for being articulate. I get way to emotional on this particular issue and then can't always say what I want to say in a way that anyone can actually hear. It makes me so angry that people are still saying Isaiah lied at the Golden Globes, for example. He didn't lie. He didn't say he didn't use the word, he said he didn't call TR that word, and he didn't. It all has to do with intent and semantics. It wasn't the time or place for him to try to explain and he didn't do a good job of it so rather than helping people understand they became angrier, and now we have all lost a primary character on the show and the only one that kept many of us watching week after week. I am so sorry about that and still so sad, but he was trying to say he didn't call TR that word. TR wasn't on the set and overheard it. He didn't mean for TR to hear and didn't mean to offend him. He wasn't addressing TR, thus did not call TR the word, just as he said in the press room. That doesn't excuse him, but an apology for using an offensive word without intent to hurt feelings should have been sufficient. People who don't like him anyway misunderstood his statement at the Golden Globes and the tabloids purposefully portrayed it a lie because it was big news again that way. Some people didn't bother to look at the situation and judge for themselves or to even try to understand what Isaiah was saying. It is those kind of things that just really hurt me to read. So instead we have fans of the show calling him a moron. This is a good man who does good things and made a mistake. He deserves some understanding and some forgiveness. That is also what makes me angry with ABC and the Grey's production team. Someone could have asked him for clarification rather than making assumptions and publicaly reprimanding him. They chose to play this out so that Isaiah was in the worst possible light and in a manner that would protect ABC from the influential pro-gay media. I feel so bad for him. He absolutely does not deserve the treatment he has received from ABC but even more so from some of the fans of Greys Anatomy.


to Alexaholic - guess what? even the New York Times
agrees with us - a quote in last Sunday's Arts & Leisure Section article about women in TV over 40 finding good roles. "Grey's Anatomy" tried to fill the "Sex and the City" gap by mixing a playful approach to sex with a swoony look at love, and ended up taking adult romance so seriously that it veered into ludicrous melodrama.)


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

You almost died like men.


I miss my dad.