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 agree, MJ. Isaiah is the one who lost his job and has been the butt of hate emails and hateful media reports for eight months. Even though both Patrick Dempsey and others in the cast have said repeatedly that the verbal altercation did not come to anything physical, still a poster on this site continues to believe some unnamed source who claims Isaiah assaulted Patrick physically. I guess we all believe what we want to believe, but how much more evidence do you need than the statements of the people involved. Even Katherine Heigl, who set herself up to be spokesperson, said on the Ellen show just after the original incident that it was only verbal. You can bet if she could have made it worse for Isaiah she would have. No one has looked at the show, really looked at the relationshp between Burke and Cristina any closer than I have, GAFreak, I think I have most of the Burke and Cristina parts memorized from viewing them over and over, and I disagree with you. Burke was taking the lead yes. I did not interpret it as a bad thing but rather a necessary thing if there was to be a relationship at all. Because of her past losses Cristina was not willing to invest in more than a superficial relationship with anyone. I never saw his leading and her taking some time to think about it and then following as negative. He asked for her phone number, she was confused and didn't know what she wanted. He walked away and told her to make up her mind. She did and it was to be with him. He wanted their relationship to be more than secret meetings in oncall rooms. He wanted to "court" her, an old fashioned term for a traditional guy. She needed time to think about it and then went to him to say that they were a couple. It was her choice. He could have walked away. He wanted her to move in with him. She resisted. He didn't push. He waited for her to make the decision to move in. I thought like in many relationships one person arrives at a place sooner than the other, but he always let her make the decision about everything except telling the Chief about their relationship. In that he could not wait because he knew the hospital politics better than she did and knew that the Chief would honor their honesty more than some inclandestine sneaking around. I saw that as a positive thing. I saw that as a part of his integrity. I think it would completely have lasted if this were a real couple and not a couple at the whim of whoever happens to be writing for the week. They were a perfect match intellectually, as dedicated surgeons, physically, and in every way except emotionally where he was light years ahead of her but willing to wait for her to catch up. I was hoping for 2 and 1/2 years that she would. When she said she was in it for the long haul, I thought that she had. When she accepted his proposal, again something she did not have to do, I really thought she knew how much she loved him and wanted to spend her life with him. Then enter Marlowe. We were led to believe for two years that she was new at having a boyfriend. Remember the episode when she was looking for the leg and paged him? She asked him if that wasn't what boyfriends were supposed to do. Marlowe was a ploy to put doubts into the viewers minds about who the real Cristina was. I completely loved this couple Burke and Cristina, watched primarily for them, followed their story line very carefully and believed they were perfect for each other and that they would eventually be happily married. Now they won't have the chance. Heatherjane, I am sorry if TR is uncomfortable. But I disagree completely. He made the decision to come out. He even told Ellen when he appeared on her show after the Golden Globes iin an appeal for still more sympathy that he could have stayed quiet but he decided to go to the press. It was not a spur of the moment impulsive act. It was well thought out and orchestrated. I don't see him as a victim. He over heard someone associate his name with an inappropriate word and chose to react very negatively. If he is uncomfortable he should be. What did he think would happen when he set out to make an example of his cast mate? If he had simply accepted the original apology and moved on none of this would have become the big media farce that it has turned into. That's what adults do. Someone does something you don't like and they apologize, you accept the apology and move on especially when it was something you overheard and not even directed at you. He is as much at fault for the continued media attention as anyone. As recently as May he agreed to an interview with the Advocate and as much as said that Isaiah did not apologize to him even though that is a bold faced lie. How much else is a lie? If he is uncomfortable with the media attention, why court it to begin with? I have no admiration for TR Knight or the way he responded to something completely out of character for Isaiah for which apologies were extended at the time of the incident and multiple times since. If TR had been man enough to accept the apologies and let the viewing audience know that they were once again on good terms, I am sure it would have blown over. Instead he milked the sympathy and publicity and continued to play the victim keeping Isaiah in the role of the heavy and at the mercy of an unmerciful pro-gay media. I have no sympathy for him. None of this was necessary and much hinged on his reaction or over reaction.


I a lot of people have been hurt because of this, but I can't find sympathy for anyone other than IW for the simple reason that people are intentionally trying to ruin his career. Things happened on the set that caused the incident, he didn't intentionally plan any of it.


OK, when is enough enough?! Has anyone stopped to think about how much this over dramatized incident being replayed over and over again in the media might be affecting T.R. Knight? Wasn't he the one initially hurt by the comment? How do you think it makes him feel to hear it repeated again and again and have to relive the whole drama over and over on a daily basis? It seems to be all anyone wants to talk about. Why don't we start thinking about him and how hard it was for him to come out to the public when he did, or what he might dealing with daily having to adjust to the reality of being scrutinized in the public eye. I admire him for overcoming such a difficult situation and I hope this whole teenage locker room BS ends soon!!


Like most of you I wasn't impressed with the finale, but if you look at the show, if you really look at it Burke was leading and pushing Cristina from as far back as season one. If they had stayed together I don't think it would've lasted. Eveyone was complaning in previous comments about how MerDer were boring. So maybe it's good that they broke up. Maybe they needed that, or @ least a fresh start. I'm not completely defending Shonda here. If I wrote for Grey's things would've been different. Gizzie wouldn't exist and there would still be a chance for Alex and Addison, but maybe Shonda wrote herself into a corner and maybe she did need to burn it all down to build it back up. If Shonda and her team created the first two seasons they can find that spark again. As for IW's firing I think that he should have been let go. TR. shouldn't have to get over it. It never should have happened. If TR. had said something about IW's race would we be reacting dfferently? Let's face it we live in a P.C. world today. You can't say what he said and face no consequences. Yes we all say things in anger, but that was a derogatory word about a personal thing. It had no place on set, and we don't know what else went on. I don't know what's in IW's heart, but from reading intervews I get the impression he only went through counselling and did the PSA because he was asked, not because it was right.


I'm in the minority on so many points. I, for one, felt it necessary for IW to be let go. And that's hard for me to say because I loved Dr. Burke. And I love him and Criistina together - it's been a long time since we've been treated to such a complex and interesting couple. I will miss them, but I do look forward to watching Cristina find her way back to herself. I agree that Season 3 was lackluster at best, and while some of that can be contributed to the writing, it's hard not to question the unity and fluidity of the whole GA team when there's turmoil on and off set. I won't afford IW the same excuses and passes that alot of people are willing to afford him. He not only used a discriminatory slur twice, but he put his hands on another co-worker in anger and caused a hostile envirionment on set. In just about any other workplace, this would call for immediate termination. I've read on more than one occasion that IW has demonstrated similar behavioral issues on previous sets. It shows a pattern and disrupts the cohesion of a group of people trying to do a stellar job. It's unfortunate, but it was time for him to move one. I find him to be a wonderful actor (and again, I will miss Burke), so I hope he's able to get a handle on some internal issue that seem to surface and flow over into his professional life. I also disagree that the writers gave him a poor send off. He was given some of the most moving dialogue the show had this season. The recital of his vows in the OR was powerful, as was his final scene with Cristina. He loved her enough to let her go and move on. A tearful, poiignant "moving out" scene would've been overkill. And I like to believe entirely too painful for our sentiimental and traditional Dr. Burke.


Oh Sarah, Does nothing anyone says ever get through to you? He used a word to describe wussie behavior. He doesn't now nor has he ever hated gays. If he had said I am not your little wuss like TR would it have caused such a firestorm of controversy? The word he did use in the heat of an argument is used millions of times every day in far more direct and hateful ways. He was mad. He used a bad word. Oh my gosh! Why don't we execute him??? Oh wait a minute, I guess we have. After months of being discredited and hounded by this one word in 43 years of his life, he denied using the word in the way it was being portrayed in the media. This is not the same thing as leveling a slur at someone even though the press wanted us to believe it was because it sold magazines and got people to respond to the online reports. Isaiah is simply not a hateful person. Do you know anything at all about him? Have you followed his career? Have you heard his interviews or watched him in public appearances? I think not or you could not believe him capable of purposefully offending TR Knight in this way. Yet, you believe you are in a position to pass judgment on him. In terms of the finale. It was horrible, plain and simple. It was ill conceived and completely unbelievable. Burke was portrayed from the beginning as a man of integrity and honor. He fell lin love with Cristina and she with him. She was bereft of emotions and was unable to let people in before Burke. For two and a half seasons we were led to believe that the relationship between Burke and Cristina was building to something better for both of them. We were captivated by the communication between these two actors who could say so much by just a look, a glance, a touch. To many of us they were a perfect fit. We were led to believe that Cristina was growing and becoming a whole person because of Burke's love for her, Cristina, just as she was. It was never about Cristina changing to fit Burke's vision of her. It was always about personal growth and his love for the real Cristina. If you bought into the nonsense of the last few weeks of the season where he was changing her into his "painted doll" you are exceedingly gullible. That was all a set up for his departure and it was completely botched. The ending was a nightmare. Burke, the Burke we have watched for 2 1/2 years would never have left Cristina at the church. The Burke who would recite those vows would never have left their apartment without trying to make it work. It was a sham and an insult to the supporters of Burke and Cristina. Not one of us will ever believe that this story had an honorable ending. They shafted Isaiah and they shafted us. If you are not a fan of Burke and Cristina, perhaps you could lend your support to the other couples on the show or characters without bashing the one that we love. It is bad enough to bash the actor who played him without knowing the person at all, but there is no reason to bash the character. There are people who were totally invested in this couple who feel that a member of their family has been lost. Your comments simply pour salt in the wound. Would a caring person do that? You accuse Isaiah of being hateful. Let's look inward a bit. There are many ways of doing that. The hate that has been leveled at Isaiah is unbelievable and completely out of proportion for what occurred. The Golden Globe and the SAG award were based on season 2. I doubt that there will be much critical acclaim for season 3 and for me there is no season 4.


If IW is as hateful and discriminating then you would have heard more about it. He's been in the business a long time. He's no more hateful then some of you, the difference he's on television and when he's tired and frustrated and slips, it gets reported. Through all of this IW has been provoked and has been labelled after one incident. If believing that you're better, then you do what you have to do to live with yourself, and if that's bashing IW, then so me it - he'll be fine.


Look people! I can see if this was a Der/Mer THREAD! Then yes, I would respect those fans and not say how I feel about them and their storyline. But this is an open forum, so I'm entitled! And for the record, I haven't bashed or hated on anyone on the show. But, all of you who are hounding me, that's all your're doing . Your'e bashing IW. And he doesn't deserve it. Stop accusing me of doing something you all are doing. I'm just commenting on the article just like you. At least I'm being nice about it. Your'e gonna see my name on these forums giving my opinion, so quit disrespecting me. It's not that serious.


Yeah, Sarah, aren't you a saint! I'm sure you never said something you regretted mere seconds after you said it, right?? Then get this: most people - unlike you - make mistakes and say things out loud in anger! It happens, it's human! And to forgive is divine! If god can do it, so can you or you should at least try to give it a rest! By the way: how dare you write anything about IWs family??? They have absolutely nothing to do with this and you don't have the right to write something like that about them! Or do you really think you can judge a whole familiy by one mistake of one familymember??


I'm sorry - but aren't people allowed to share their opinions? that's what blogging and forums are for. Greys was a show we all liked and now some of us aren't so happy about it anymore. We have the right to share our thoughts - nothing is ever rainbows and butterflies all the time. I believe the writers of Greys have let down their fans. They got full of themselves and now their show has went down the crapper. Doesn't matter which acting team member is gone or who is still there - what matters is the writing team needs to improve or there won't even be a show to watch.


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)

Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time. And now that I'm finally me again, I can't. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me because when you asked me to ignore Teddy's page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.