More From Shonda Rhimes On New Grey's Anatomy Season, Isaiah Washington Saga

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Earlier, we brought you Shonda Rhimes' admissions of a lackluster Season 3 and promises for a better Season 4. Later at the same event, TV Guide tracked down the Grey's Anatomy creator and executive producer again, asking her questions about a topic she has thus far avoided.

That being Isaiah Washington. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, Rhimes did her best to address the matter with grace and dignity.

Shonda Rhimes Speaks
TV Guide: How difficult was it for you to let Isaiah Washington go, on a personal level?
Shonda Rhimes: It wasn't. It was a decision that was a long time coming, and it felt like it was the right decision for all.

TV Guide: Given everything that transpired during the hiatus, did you feel the need to give the cast a pep talk on the first day back?
Shonda Rhimes: No. They're a group of real professionals who really rose to the occasion last season, and really delivered some amazing performances at a time when we were all having an emotionally hard time. So, I feel like, no, we're a family. Nobody needed a pep talk.

TV Guide: So the decision to fire Isaiah was not something that was imposed on you?
Shonda Rhimes: The great thing about [ABC Studios head] Mark Pedowitz and [ABC president] Steve McPherson is they never imposed anything on me.

TV Guide: So you agreed with the decision?
Shonda Rhimes: Of course I did.

TV Guide: Would you have written the season finale differently if that stuff hadn't happened during the season?
Shonda Rhimes: I wrote the season-ender exactly as I planned to write the season-ender. What's kind of amazing is the season-ender finished the story of Preston Burke and truly paid tribute to that character and to the talent of Isaiah Washington in a way that made sense. But it also went exactly where our show was planning to go anyway.

TV Guide: You were quoted as saying that it was disturbing to think that one black actor could be replaced with another. Do you have any second thoughts about saying that in light of the recent re-casting on Private Practice?
Shonda Rhimes: No, I think there's a point there. I think that with Preston Burke, the character that audiences have come to know and love for three seasons, it's very different. And at a time there was some talk of, 'Let's cast this actor or that actor... " sort of naming a bunch of black actors... as if the only thing that was important about the character of Preston Burke was his race. That was disturbing to me. It's a very different situation from the enhanced [two-hour episode of Grey's Anatomy], which was our version of a pilot for Private Practice. Pilots get recast all the time. Ours just happened to air. It wasn't a matter of needing to find another black actor. It was a matter of, "Audra McDonald is the person we want."

TV Guide: Do you understand that there were people that interpreted this as you turning a homophobic incident into a racial incident?
Shonda Rhimes: I do now. Absolutely. But I do think that [specific] discussion was disturbing to me �" as disturbing as the entire incident that happened for T.R. and Isaiah.

TV Guide: In retrospect, do you wish you had spoken out sooner about the whole thing?
Shonda Rhimes: Here's the thing: I know for you guys it's incredibly frustrating that I didn't say something. And I'm kind of sorry, because I know you guys have stories to tell. For me, the story we have to tell is the story of the show, and my instinct when something like this happened is to sort of close the doors and hunker down with people who are my family and protect them as much as possible. The outside world became far less important to me than those people I work with every day, and making sure that those people I work with are okay. I wasn't worried about the outside world. The outside world's not something that I can control. But the people I work with every day were. And I really was spending my time dealing with that, not dealing with whether or not I should make a statement.

TV Guide: When was the moment when you realized, 'You know, we're going to have to make a change here?'
Shonda Rhimes: Again, I feel like this is stuff that happened in our family, and I don't want to give specifics on sort of how and what happened. But there was a moment when I was sure and felt good and comfortable about the decision and that it was the right decision to be made for everybody.

TV Guide: How are things between you and T.R. now?
Shonda Rhimes: We're good. I feel like everybody is working well together. T.R. Knight is doing some amazing work. We're moving forward. We're excited about the stories we're telling this season. It feels like they're fresh.... And we're going with the idea that we want to have a little bit more fun this season.

TV Guide: There seems to be a lot of infighting at Grey's Anatomy. Do you think you can do anything differently in terms of managing that set?
Shonda Rhimes: Well, I don't know. I've never run a television show before, so I only know one way to run a television show, which is: You have an enormously talented group of people; you become enormously popular way faster than you ever thought was going to happen; and then you swim.

TV Guide: Switching gears, were you surprised by the strong reaction to George and Izzie?
Shonda Rhimes: I had a strong reaction to George and Izzie.

TV Guide: A strong negative reaction?
Shonda Rhimes: I wasn't sure I was ready for it. I don't think anybody's ready for it. I don't know if George and Izzie are ready for it. He's married, and she said some really harsh things. I feel like if you follow our characters you know that they're flawed, they're human, they make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are the absolute right decision and sometimes mistakes are the absolute wrong one. It's a really interesting relationship to explore.

Now that Shonda Rhimes has spilled her two cents, what do you think? Are you looking forward to next season? How do you feel about her comments?

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


i swear 2 god if george and izzie get together i WONT WATCH THE SHOW ANYMORE. thats just REDICULOUS. completely and utterly rediculous. its so predictable now. i think that izzie and mcsteamy shuld get together like the original storyline wanted. i know a lot of people who REALLY are against this decision...completely!


This is sad. Shonda you really sold out. Isaiah was the BEST actor you had. Everyone makes mistakes. you belittled this man..sending him to therapy, making public apologies. He did everything but kiss your butt and this is what you did to him. I would have rathered you kept this interview to yourself. You had my favor when I thought it was ABC that forced you to fire IW. I hope you can sleep with yourself. I don't know if you will read this, but you are supposed to treat others as you would want them to treat YOU! Keep your resume could very well get the ax also (by ABC when your ratings start suffering)


Barbara - AGREED. How can Shonda say she didn't feel bad firing Isaiah Washington? These people worked together for three years +. That's just wrong. Honestly, I only truly cared about Burktina. They made the show worth watching during S3. I'm only watching S4 to see what happens to Cristina. GEORGE & IZZIE - makes me want to throw up. I miss Isaiah Washington already, Shonda is full of crap.


by the way, hi Belgian Grey, I'm also belgian ;) !


(first of all: sorry if my english is bad!) It would be too easy if Lexie would start sth with Derek, no? Everyone thinks it will happen, so it probably won't happen?
I loved season 3, but I'm wondering how long they can go on.. Maybe it would be better if they would stop the show at a point, a penicle, instead of some 'garbage' storylines that might come next season.. I mean the love thing with Mer/Der, how long can they go on? There will always happen things to keep it exciting.. I have the feeling that many people are bored with MerDer..
It's a pity Burke left GA, he was so good..The same for Addison! Can't wait for next season, I'm wondering if it will be as good as season 1-2-3!


I think Lexie will come in between MerDer, i just hope George doesnt leave SGH (someone tell me if i missed something cause as i remember it, he was thinking pretty hard during the finale of S3). All I wish was that Denny didnt die. Was watching the DVD's of S2, and missed Denny horribly!


i hate shonda and abc for firing isaiah. will not watch GA anymore...


i'm just tired of waiting and being led on to see merder get together and then break apart.. somehow it happens to them and it's testing my patience.. either break up forever (impossible) or just work out their issues without breaking up.. i know it's tv and no couple can be happy for too long but coming back to S4, i have nothing to hope for and it's sort of depressing to turn on your tv and worry for your characters which gets to you in the end. It's no longer enjoyable and I'd rather avoid it, switch to CSI and watch something that gets solved at least.. If i missed an episodes last season, i no longer felt an urge to catch up.. because i know I get disappointed with the story development.. There's not one happy person for me to look up to.. lol, i'm not a depressed person but watching GA and poor mer does!


Hey kathy i totally agree with ur comment on merder. I think them being back together after an emotional impass will take time and i can assure you Shonda will take her time on matter what. But when it happens, it will be mind blowing, if Shonda writes it well, they can win an oscar for that scene. LOL! i am hopeless i know.


I love IW's acting - yes he is incredibly talented and I stand behind him as one of his fans. I will miss the Burketina relationship. I too will not be tuning in to Grey's -- it just won't be the same. I will continue to visit here as I have found a lot of kindred spirits here at GA Insider.


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.