Shonda Rhimes on Isaiah Washington, Difficult Seasons, and Painful Departures
Uneasy is the head that wears a crown, especially when you're the creator of a hit medical drama with a scandal-prone cast. Such was Shonda Rhimes's plight circa 2007 following Isaiah Washington's (Preston Burke) homophobic slurs and subsequent firing.
"Creatively, that was a really difficult time, and it was hard for me to write the show," Shonda tells The Hollywood Reporter in a candid interview. "Seasons 4 and 5 were difficult because I was in a dark place after the press frenzy that descended on us because of the [Isaiah situation and critical backlash to the stories.]. In the beginning, it felt like such a magical place, and to discover that everyone isn't who you thought they were is very unfortunate."
She does see the silver lining of those dark times, however: "I found the Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Erica (Brooke Smith) relationship and Owen (Kevin McKidd) in there. There were things that were amazing because they pull you through. A lot of us joke we have PTSD from that period of time — and we do."
Ridding the show of Isaiah Washington was probably an easy decision, but other cast departures were not such easy pills to swallow.
"I probably wouldn't have blown up Kyle Chandler [in season three]. We were filming the episode and he was pitching me ideas on how he could stay … Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dying was really difficult for us. I didn't want to do it, and he didn't want to come out of his trailer. I cried and everyone at the table read cried. … Lexie's (Chyler Leigh) death was devastating. It was hard to write, hard to be at the table read and hard to see on film."
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