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 justed watched Shonda's intervew on Access Hollywood, there's several clips on the website. Listening to her, I can see that deep down inside her heart, Shonda the person, not Shonda the writer, didn't agree with the letting go of IW. I personally think, just listening to her and watching her she was probably given an ultimatum by ABC and Disney. Either lose Washington, or lose everything. I can see her making the decision based off of that and it being a very hard decision. Starting a few minutes ago, I actually feel for her. I KNOW that she knows it's a VERY BIG loss having fired that man! And really, there's nothing she can do about it, but make the best out of the situation and move on. I'm pretty sure she hasn't stopped crying at night over this. But when she goes to work, she has to play the game. Hey, that's life. I hate that she chose losing him over losing her own career, but she had to do what she had to do. I'm pretty sure if we were in her shoes, being honest with ourselves, after much thinking would have made the same decision at the end. If you had to choose letting one person go, someone that is a seasoned actor with more credits than all of them combined, that could get more work after the dust settles because he is Isaiah Washington, or lose everything you put your blood, sweat and tears into, you would close your eyes, grit your teeth, with tears running down your face, and make that call. You would. Now me, knowing me. I would have got on my knees and cried out to God, prayed, fasted and believed God to change the hearts and minds of ABC and Disney before I had to make that call. And I truly believe, if it was God's will for Isaiah to renew his contract, that God would have honored my request. ABC and Disney may be big and intimidating, but GOD is bigger! All I'm saying is, I can see that she isn't really the villian in all this. I'm personally sorry that I thought she was. It had to be hard for her. It was sad for him. And his fans. I love IW and Preston Burke. I'm hurt! But, things don't always go the way we would like them to. Nobody else on that show was really known that well before Grey's, maybe Patrick Dempsey, but that's it. And I really only watched him in his movies from the eighties. So really, besides those two, the others need to stay on there because that's all they have for now. (Knocked Up....okay.....????)


Burke Backer, I totally agree with all of your postings regarding GA and Isaiah. I was personally disappointed with the direction of the show in Season 3--none of the people we came to know and love in 1 and 2 stayed true to their characters. I believe Shonda tried to "invent" some drama that would keep the show on top, but instead destroyed (burned down the house indeed!) all of the things we loved about the show. For example, TR should be complaining about what the writers did to George instead of dwelling on one inconsequential (tho regrettable) word uttered in frustration. George was a man of character, one person you could count on to be decent and true, yet the writers made him into a whiny, complaining, ANGRY cheater, with no moral compass and no sense of direction in his life or career. Derek, who was also strong and decent and most importantly DECISIVE, became a complete ineffectual bore who could not make a decision to save his own life---is it McDreamy or McGirlyMan?????First he loves her, then he's hitting on girls in bars, first he tells her he'll always be there then he tells her he can't breathe for her anymore. Which is it? Is he IN or is he OUT? Because if we, the viewers, don't know, how the heck can poor damaged Meredith figure it out? The loss of Addison and Dr. Burke is yet another deathblow to the show, which has been SLIDING downhill faster than Paris Hilton or Brittany. I was a HUGE fan of the show, just re-watched Seasons 1 and 2 and the differences in writing, storyline, acting, humor, medical issues, etc, are night and day with the shlock they turned out in Season 3. I wanted to hear what other fans had to say, so turned to this site, and I too feel that the majority of viewers were extremely disappointed with Season 3 and the destruction of what was an award-winning show. There will be no Golden Globes for Season 3. And I fear the end is in sight for this once-"must-see" show, as viewers begin to find other options for Thursday night. As for myself, where I was once ECSTATIC for the start of the season, and made plans for each new show, I am now only mildly interested and unsure if I will be able to sustain a full season of interest. Poor Shonda---she started to believe her own hype and GREED took over (hence the rush to capitalize on the popularity of GA by spinning off that dreary, incredibly juvenile new show) and the result is that she destroyed the best parts of GA and replaced them with what she THOUGHT would "sell." Finally, though I don't condone the word Isaiah used, I think the incident was blown way out of proportion, the adults (supposedly) working on set should be professional and come to work to do just that. They could have gotten past that incident and continued on but they CHOSE not to , and in the end it is not only TR and IW who suffered, but all of us, because we got totally shortchanged on a show we had invested in (time and emotion) for 3 full seasons.


Calliope, I said that was my last post on that particular forum. I was tired of your mean comments personally aimed at me. So I called myself getting away from you, on that particular forum, not the site as a whole! I don't know why I thought I wouldn't see or hear from you again. You're gonna be commenting on these different articles on a daily basis just like I am. So yes Calliope, you're going to see my name on every post that has anything to do with Isaiah. Now, if you're tired of seeing my name, just post on any other forum that has nothing to do with my man. If you've noticed, I have'nt posted on any of the other costars articles because like I said, they are of no interest to me. So, for future reference, when you see a new front page on Grey's Anatomy Insider, and it either has Isaiah Washington's picture or anything concerning him in anyway, brace youself. Just say, "Oh my God, I've gotta see that moron Vicky praise that moron Isaiah Washington!" YOU'RE DARN RIGHT! ALONG WITH 80% OF GREYS FANS! You have a blessed day Calliope. (smile)


vicky I respect you but you bashing and then you said "it's my last post" and now you are here again.
I'm not only MerDer fan, I'm a Grey's fans (I hate only Addison). Burke wasn't so bad but IW is a moron IMO


Everyone has said something they've regretted at one point or another. I'm sure they could have made it work for IW, but for some reason they didn't want to. I'm not interested in IW much, but I do believe that removing a major character is bad for the show. Burke - and then Addison too. I think season 3 was horrible. It was depressing, and many people seemed too far out of character. It wasn't believeable at all. I think Shonda is losing fans and she'd better pay attention. It's the minority of people who share her opinion of such a fantastic third season. In fact, I really don't recall seeing anyone who just loved this season.


And no, when we're angry sometimes we don't have control over our words, we're not thinking clearly, that's why we say thing we don't mean.


That's exactly what they're trying to do, but he'll always have people supporting him, and he's gained even more.


He was on a closed set, a supposedly protected environment. It was not a public statement. People often say things in the heat of an argument that they don't mean and that they are sincerely sorry for afterwards. There is a big difference between making a statement from the stage as did Richards, or over the radio as did Imus, and saying somethng in a private conversation that is then spread all over the news in an effort to discredit you. Don't you agree? There most definitely were and are people out to ruin him and unfortunately they have had some success.


I would like to respond to one additional thing. Isaiah has supported gay activists causes for years. He was not ever nor is he now a homophobe, so he did not have to change his thinking about gay people. There was no reason to believe his public service announcement was not sincere because he has sincerely worked to support Gay causes in the past when his job was not hinging on it. People took a word out of context and built it into something horrible that clearly was never Isaiah's intention. Words can be used for multiple purposes. People are assuming that he used this word in a hateful way to make TR Knight feel discredited. In fact, TR was not on the set. I don't believe Isaiah meant for TR to hear or be offended. He was blowing off steam and said something that was inappropriate and not reflective of what his entire history has shown us is not in his heart. The fact that TR came on the scene in time to hear the word spoken in association with his name was offensive. Isaiah apologized but TR could not find it in his heart to accept the apology. I can forgive a word spoken in anger and then regretted far easier than I can forgive a well planned campaign to discredit a colleague because he hurt my feelings. Isaiah has been punished a thousand times over for using that inappropriate word. Private and public apologies, public service announcements, rehab for anger management, missing the SAG awards, having hateful things written about him by complete strangers on a daily basis. How much is enough? Now he has lost his job and still hateful people are not satisfied. Really hasn't there been enough punishment for something that is not a crime to begin with? Yes we live in a politically correct world, but since when is it politically correct to refuse to forgive someone for trying over and over to make amends. It is not in the best interest of anyone to give this much power to a single word.


IW knew he was in the public eye and he was in control of his words. He shouldn't have said what he said. No one is trying to ruin him, accept maybe himself.


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.