Actor Isaiah Washington is to return to US medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, seven years after he was fired from the show. he 50-year-old, who played heart surgeon Preston Burke during the first three seasons, was axed after he used a homophobic slur during an on-set altercation.
His character is making a return to the show as part of the plot for the departure of series regular Sandra Oh, his former on-screen love interest.
Show creator Shonda Rhimes said on the matter:
It’s important to me that Cristina’s journey unfolds exactly as it should. Burke is vital to that journey – he gives her story that full-circle moment we need to properly say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Yang.
Washington was one of the original stars of Grey’s Anatomy, but his contract was not renewed after he used the anti-gay slur during an argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey, which lead to regular cast member at the time TR Knight revealing that he was gay and that he was offended by what Washington said. He further angered the network bosses by repeating the slur at the Golden Globes backstage that year.
The actor would apologise for the remarks saying that it was “unacceptable in any context or circumstance”. Since then Washington has received counselling and met with gay rights groups to discuss ways to address homophobia.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has praised Washington’s return to the series, telling The Hollywood Reporter:
His PSA (public service announcement) and his statements promoting marriage equality in recent years have sent a strong message of support for LGBT people. We look forward to seeing him return to one of our favourite shows, as well as in Patrik-Ian Polk’s moving film Blackbird about a young man coming out in a small Southern town.
Since being dropped Washington has had bit roles in a few TV series and films but not one as big as his role in Grey’s Anatomy in terms of audience. His last film role, Blue Caprice, was really good and worth a watch for his performance alone. He is also set to appear in the potential CW TV show The 100, with this synopsis:
Set 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, when a spaceship housing humanity’s lone survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth in hopes of possibly re-populating the planet.
Seven years is a long time to be forgiven, which he seems to have from the creator (well, she long had his back since the incident) and GLAAD, though from some comments online some may not ever forgive him for the incident.
Washington will appear in a May episode of Grey’s Anatomy.