Trendy TV Report: Isaiah Washington Returns from Exile, After a “Grey” Departure
I am still holding a long-standing grudge against Shonda Rhimes & Co. for callously discarding one of the most talented and charismatic TV actors of our generation
So you can imagine my bewilderment when it was announced that Isaiah Washington who is sadly best known for being unceremoniously booted from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, after chastising supposedly T.R. Knight with homophobic slurs, will be back in May to reprise the role of Dr. Preston Burke. His return supposedly facilitates the exit of former love interest, Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh.
When Grey’s Anatomy made its debut back in 2005, I was immediately hooked. I loved the fact that the show’s creator was an African-American woman, and I was even more impressed that the ambiance didn’t recall any of the factory settings responsible for churning out Tyler Perry’s generic offerings. I was particularly drawn to Washington’s character because he was effortlessly sexy, delightfully domineering and irresistibly engaging.
So when shit hit the fan I paid close attention because I had a personal stake in this one. Aside from the obvious crush I had developed for Washington over the years, I also thought he was one of the major reasons why the show was worth the time I was investing. The early reports indicated that a heated argument involving the three men had escalated and ended with Washington slashing Knight with what everyone assumed was the F-word. Obviously not a very gracious move, but he did immediately issue an apology to help diffuse the situation. It didn’t work.
I remember the next few weeks being a haze of speculation, outcry and anticipation, as more details unfolded. The infamous Golden Globes fiasco officially set the wheels in motion. Washington made an ill-fated joke about “wanting to be gay” during his tour on the red carpet. And then his fate was sealed at the press conference while celebrating the show’s Best Drama win, he denied ever calling Knight a faggot. The look on the faces of the cast and Rhimes, revealed the dismal forecast hovering over Washington’s fate. A few months later, it was announced that his contract would not be renewed. He was dropped like a bad habit, and my loyalty to Grey’s Anatomy swiftly declined.
I worried about how his career would survive this major setback. I naively thought he would quickly find his way through the maze of public discontentment and be attached to another network staple. But unfortunately, he messed with the wrong team, and there would be no storyline gripping enough to write him out of that nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating blatant ignorance in any form, but I do believe that Washington was unfairly banished from a show that benefited highly from his intoxicating intensity.
It has taken almost a decade for the town criers to mellow down, and Washington is slowly but surely recovering from the public massacre he suffered at the hands of his victims. He is currently a cast member on CW’s The 100 and he also stars in the upcoming independent film Blue Caprice. But being welcomed back with open arms by the same crew that turned their backs on him when all hell broke loose will be remarkable to watch. I intend to tune in, and that will most likely be the only episode I will ever commit to this season.
The LGBT issued a statement stamped with their approval for Washington’s return. They are apparently convinced that he is a changed man based on the favorable grade he received for adequately completing the steps necessary for repentance.
I am glad that he is back on the road to redemption but it came at too high a price. How was Alec Baldwin able to escape potential career suicide despite being equipped with an acerbic tongue? I suppose it comes down to how high the stakes are and who is sleek enough to escape being the official scapegoat. Another Grey’s alumn Katherine Heigl deserves the hand she was dealt her after she made a public mockery of her Emmy nomination. She basically bit the hand that fed her. But Washington was literally swallowed alive. Thankfully he was spat out whole!