‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Book Reveals ‘Physical Fight’ That Led To Isaiah Washington’s Firing

Isaiah Washington played Preston Burke in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. The actor played Cristina Yang’s love interest and mentor in the first few seasons. After season 3, Washington departed from the show. Dr. Burke’s sudden exit from Seattle Grace shocked many fans. But, there is an unsettling reason behind Washington’s departure from the medical drama. 

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ dropped Isaiah Washington 

Isaiah Washington wearing blue scrubs in 'Grey's Anatomy.'
Isaiah Washington | Karen Neal/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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In 2007, Washington was fired from Grey’s Anatomy after the third season. The actor was accused of using a homophobic slur toward his openly gay co-star, T.R Knight. The controversy resurfaced at the 2007 Golden Globes. During the award show press conference, Washington said: “No, I did not call T.R. a f*****. Never happened, never happened.” 

Washington later issued an apology for using the slur toward Knight. However, in June 2007, ABC did not renew the actors contract, and he was dropped from the show. At first, he believed race played a huge role in the firing. 

In an interview with The Washington Post, he thought his race was a factor in ABC’s decision. “My mistake was believing that I would get the support from my network and all of my castmates across the board,” he said. “My mistake was thinking black people get second chances. I was wrong on all fronts.” 

Washington and Dempsey fought behind the scenes

Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington as Derek Shepherd and Preston Burke on 'Grey's Anatomy'
Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Scott Garfield/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

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In a new tell-all book titled How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, Entertainment Weekly editor Lynette Rice details a heated altercation between Washington and Patrick Dempsey. In addition, the book states that the argument led to the actor making the insult. 

Grey’s Anatomy producer Mark Wilding recalled the incident on set. “It was my episode,” he said in the book. “I think one of them had been late to set one day, and the other one then decided to pay him back by being late himself. Then it sort of exploded. They got into an arguing match, and then before you know it, they were physically fighting.”

Harry Werksman, another writer from the show, also witnessed the argument. “Isaiah, for whatever reason that day, just took that the wrong way, and he went after Patrick,” he said. “I guess he felt disrespected that he and the crew had been waiting.”

He continued, “He went after Patrick, pushed him up against the wall, and said, ‘You can’t talk to me the way you talk to that little f***** T.R.’ ”   

Marty Carrillo, a crew member on the show, told Rice: “Everyone knew T.R. was gay. For some reason, Isaiah just lost it and pinned Patrick up against the wall. You could see Isaiah’s pupils go wide, like, ‘What did I do?’ It was quiet. Everyone had to leave the set.” 

The altercation led to Washington’s firing and, in turn, led to his character being written off Grey’s Anatomy.

Preston Burke returns to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

In 2014, Washington returned for one episode in Grey’s Anatomy Season 10. According to People, the actor came back to send off former co-star Sandra Oh. The two played love interests on the show. Also, their characters were engaged to get married. But, Cristina left Burke at the altar in season 3. 

“It’s important to me that Cristina’s journey unfolds exactly as it should,” creator Shonda Rhimes said at the time. “Burke is vital to that journey – he gives her story that full-circle moment we need to say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Yang properly.”