Ellen Pompeo talks Isaiah Washington, Katherine Heigl leaving 'Grey's Anatomy'

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Image Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

It’s been a while since Grey’s Anatomy fans have seen Izzie Stevens’ blonde locks bouncing down the hallway, and it’s been even longer since we’ve even heard mention of that Harper Avery-winning cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Preston Burke. Unlike many others, Burke and Izzie were two characters who managed to make it out of Seattle alive. Their real-life counterparts, however, didn’t slip away so quietly.

When Isaiah Washington left Grey’s after season 3, there were rumors about a dispute between Washington and co-star T.R. Knight (George O’Malley) during which Washington supposedly used a homophobic slur. Washington left the show that same season, with Knight following two years later. However, now that the show is in its tenth season, original cast member Ellen Pompeo, who has been there all along, is talking about the show’s most controversial departures.

Pompeo told the NY Post that originally, Washington was up for the role of McDreamy. “You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend,” Pompeo said. “Shonda [Rhimes] really wanted to put a black man in the mix. I didn’t think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn’t want him. It was too close to home.” (Editorial note: Pompeo is married to African-American music producer Chris Ivery.) “I said I wanted that Dempsey kid. I think that once Isaiah did not get the role it backfired.”

So it seems like it all goes back to the beginning for Washington. Then again, who wouldn’t want to play the man dubbed “McDreamy?” Well, other than the man dubbed “McSteamy,” but we could get stuck on “Mc” nicknames all day. Instead, let’s move on to dramatic exit number two.

Unlike Washingon, Heigl wasn’t a part of any alleged on-set confrontation. Instead, most of her drama was behind-the-scenes. For example, Heigl turned a lot of heads for her decision not to enter the 2008 Emmy race because of a claim that the writing wasn’t good enough for her character. Then, before fans knew it, Izzie had cancer, survived cancer, and then left anyway.

“Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control,” Pompeo told the Post. “The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me.”

And then Heigl’s movie career got in the way, as the interview goes on to reveal.  “When Katie left, it was tough. You could understand why she wanted to go — when you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26. But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off.”

Perhaps Izzie Stevens wanting to come back and Alex telling her to leave in a later season was symbolic? What do you think, PopWatchers? Do you still miss either Burke or Stevens? We know you (but really we) miss George.


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