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T.R. Knight: I Made the Right Decision

by at . Comments

Fans were shocked when T.R. Knight made the decision to leave the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, the hit medical drama that launched him to fame in 2005.

This week, in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor reveals what led him to his decision, and he also candidly discusses the Isaiah Washington situation, coming out of the closet, and leaving his friends at Seattle Grace.

This fall, Knight was surprised to see his character George O’Malley all but vanish from the show - in fact, in the first nine episodes of Season 5, he appeared on screen a total of only 48 minutes, compared to 114 for Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang.

Still, due to what he calls a “breakdown of communication” between himself and Grey's Anatomy executive producer Shonda Rhimes, the actor chose not to ask his boss what was going on with George O’Malley. Instead, he simply asked to leave.

"My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]," he explains. "And with respect, I'm going to leave it at that."

Though he was unknown when Grey's Anatomy premiered, Knight emerged as one of the show's breakout stars, earning a supporting actor Emmy nod in 2007. But what came to be known as "Isaiahgate" catapulted him to household-name status.

T.R. Knight Entertainment Weekly Cover

After Isaiah Washington referred to Knight as a "f----t" during an on-set argument with Patrick Dempsey, the tabloids caught wind of it, Knight came out of the closet, and Washington was ultimately not asked back to the show the following season.

While Knight doesn’t specifically fault Shonda Rhimes for how the situation was handled behind the scenes, he says she tried to discourage him from coming out:

"I think she was concerned about having my statement come out so close to the [initial] incident." Rhimes denies it: "I said, 'If you want to come out, that's awesome.'"

Knight returned to work on Season 4, but the actor struggled with the story line in which George cheated on his wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) with Izzie (Katherine Heigl).

And once George went MIA at the star of Season 5, the star came to the conclusion that his character had “expired.” But Knight is at peace with his choice to leave:

"There comes a time when it’s so clear that moving on is the best decision," he says.

But at first, his castmate and friend Katherine Heigl tried to talk him out of it: "I didn't think it was the right decision," she says. "I felt like some of the problems could be worked out. But by the time it came to fruition, I was [glad] because he was ready to go."

T.R. Knight knows he’s taking a risk walking away from his top 10 show and $14 million contract: "From an outsider's perspective, I get the [impression that] 'Oh, he’s just a spoiled actor ... he doesn’t know how good he has it,'" he says.

"There are a lot of people who would like to be in my position. But in the end, I need to be fulfilled in my work, and I am confident I made the right decision."

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

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I recently got into this show because of my Mom. Until HOUSE I was never into medical dramas. This show is unrelentless. I sat down with her Season 1 DVD set, and two weeks later, I was up to the most recent episode of season 6. I wasted away in front of this show. T.R. Knight is an incredible actor. His character was by far my favorite. The show definitely lost something when he moved on- if Shonda Rimes didn't fight to keep him on, to encourage him to continue, there is a clear and present amount of neglect on her part to keep the things about her show that make it magical. I wish T.R. the best of luck, and I hope to see him on my TV again doing something just as great, if not better. Sadly, I must admit that I tire of hearing about the high-maintenance attitude of ungrateful actors who piss on the platform that made them famous, also. Katherine Heigl made a grave error in judgment when she ungratefully threw an Emmy nod back of the face of the people who nominated her, and she deserved to have her foothold as Izzie come loose. I hope that at the very least, there can be some story resolution about her failure to return to the show.

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HE'S GAY?!?!?! oh God help me, that just stabs me through the HEART! I was ALMOST in love with George!! I was BROKEN when he left the show!! I sobbed for hours!!! after he died!!!
aw COME ON!!! well blaaah

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Not sure why people are comparing actors to ordinary people. Actors have a lot more money. TR has no kids and nobody to support but himself, and I'm sure he has put a lot of money aside, so why stay in a job where he is no longer happy or feels needed? Hey even ordinary people change jobs all the time. My cousin just did because his job wasn't making him happy. Does that make him a monster? No. He wants to do something else, that's all. Not everyone puts money as the primary consideration. TR lived off tuna cans all week long before making it big on Grey's. He doesn't care about the money. Not sure why him wanting to leave a show after FIVE years, which is a long time in the acting business, makes him a cry-baby or a monster. He is a great actor, and let's face it the show hadn't been using him at all the last two eyars on the show. It's obvious Shonda had no idea what to do with George, which is a shame as he was my favorite character and the only erason why I used to watch this crap. I haven't watched since and I don't miss it. Why be unhappy somewhere when you can be happy some place else? His play got great critical and public success. I went to see it, and it was full room and everyone gace him a huge ovation at the end. No talent? The guy was the best male actor Grey ever had, which is why he's the only one to have ever gotten an Emmy nod (he should have won too, he made me cry and laugh and feel like I was intruding on private moments when his dad was sick, he was amazing). As for looks, well, I could get lost in those beautiful blue eyes for hours on end. I love TR. He is talented, sweet, funny and classy, plus he's amazing to his fans. I got a big hug from him off-stage and a big smile. He is the sweetest, most humble person you could meet.

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Some actors actually want to act. He didn't whine about it. He wanted to do something that would fulfill him professionally, not stand around like a wallpaper being paid to do nothing. TR talked about it once when he left, and that was it. Shonda the witch though has tried a few times to smear his name since, and TR has always been too classy to answer back. It's not just that he doesn't have much screentime. He taped scenes, and they were cut. he showed up not even 2 minutes per episode most of the season. He wasn't backburnered. He was completely erased, and when he tried to talk to the witch about it, she was too busy for him. She also tried to force him to stay in the closet, and when he wouldn't, she punished him by erasing George. What kind of boss makes her actiors pay by cutting off their scenes? Would you want to work for a vindictive witch like that? I wouldn't. Good on TR for having some integrity,. which most of the actors who prostitute themselves for money don't have an ounce of, and actually leaving. He didn,t leave to do movies either. he did to make theater which pays a whole lot less, which emans he is in acting for the love of it, not money. How refreshing to have someone not obsessed with money in this greedy busi ness? Not talented? The guy headed a musical production in a lead role and got critics singing his praises. That is a guy who had only sung in high school in a minor role before. He went from playing funny adorable George to a cold, repressed jewish guy falsely accused of raping a 13-year old, a guy who got hanged. That role is one of the most complex in theater, and yet he did it. He broke everyone's hearts in the role, sang, danced and from what I gathered, he looked pretty darn good in his boxers. TR is a babe, gorgeous eyes, gorgeous smile, sexy lips, sexy eyelashes and hot hot hands. Get some glasses. The guy can do comedy, drama, singing, dancing, everything. And btw, his play was named one of the 10 best in LA. Not too shabby, right? You wish you were half as talented and adiorable as he is. As for the people not working, hmm, TR has tons of money saved. Please don,t tell me if you could afford to leave a job where you are not respected and happy, you would continue to stay there. He knows he might never work agauin, yet he left. Tells you how happy Shondaland is, right?

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Ummm,,,, sorry, no disrespect to T R but, walking away from $14 million ?? HuH? Over a petty, my character doesn't have more on screen minutes than the next? Umm,,,spoiled. There are plenty of people on this earth who have issues with their jobs and some of those people take pride in their craft/job too. But, we muddle through it and work issues out. Walk away from $14 million is just crazy.

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Please, T.R. Knight is about a good an actor as Chyler Leigh is; they both SUCK! I can't believe he was/is such a cry-baby, walking out on a $14 million contract because he wasn't happy about where his character was going. Please, half the country is out of work, and he's crying about a $14 million contract because he doesn't get more screen time? He deserves never to work again in TV or feature films. Plus, he is not good looking, nor talented in any way, shape or form.

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I wish TR the best of luck. I am disappointed that he has left the show and wish everyone would have tried harder. But those of us reading this blog and these headlines, are outsiders and we'll never really know what went on and why, and how all parties arrived at the decisions they did. What I do know is that the show won't be the same without him.

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agreed. George and Izzy are the 2 best characters I think, they brought comic relief and real character to the show. George was a very likable character and its gonna be tough to not see him, and its sad he died really without anything, without a huge accomplishment or a love or something like that. And he died in the most horrid horrid way....

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I will miss you, George. IMO, Grey's will no longer be the same. I anticipate the ratings will go down. George was my favorite character and created such a compassionate balance to the chaos of life-changing events that occurred on the program. You could always count on George's gentle, compassionate touch. Nobody could do it like he could. The way that he talked Miranda Bailey into delivering her baby instead of dying will always be a favorite scene of mine. And the emotion that he showed when his father was sick and died, and how he reacted to Bailey and Richard that they shouldn't have continued the extensive surgery that his dad requested. IMO, he was the best actor of the bunch. Although I love the show, I don't think I'll be watching it as much. Good luck, George. You deserved so much more.

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Now that it has finally registered with me that "George" will not be back to my favorite show when it debuts for this season, I'm just very sad.

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)

Nobody's memory is perfect or complete. We jumble things up. We lose track of time. We are in one place... then another and it all feels like one long, inescapable moment. So, what does it mean? What do we take away? Which pieces will haunt us? Hurt us? End us? Inspire us? It's just like my mother used to say, the carousel never stops turning. You can't get off.

Meredith