Grey's Anatomy: Preston Burke / Isaiah Washington is a Jerk (But that's OK)
Grey's Anatomy: Preston Burke / Isaiah Washington is a Jerk (But that's OK)
Possibly the biggest gossip story to come out of the Golden Globes was Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington's denial of ever calling co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot". The initial story, that surfaced last year, goes like this: Isaiah Washington, in the midst of an on-set argument with Patrick Dempsey, called T.R. Knight a "faggot", using the term in a derogatory manner. The subsequent fallout from the incident basically forced Knight publicly out of the closet, forcing him to do so not on his own terms. Washington has had various on-set incidents in his career. This is probably the reason he isn't more famous; he's probably a good enough actor to have become an A-lister. The Golden Globes denial of the incident by Washington spurned some almost immediate backlash from his other cast members, especially Katherine Heigl, who seemed especially angry that he would deny such a heavily publicized incident.
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She said, "I'm going to be really honest right now, he needs to just not speak in public. Period. I'm sorry, that did not need to be said. I just find it hurtful." Since then, there have been numerous public outcries calling for the head of Washington, telling ABC that he should no longer grace the screen of America's number one drama. Perhaps against my better judgment, allow me to play devil's advocate. Actors are, by nature, self-centered. Not universally, surely, and not usually in a blatant manner, but it's impossible to deny that it doesn't come with the territory. Actors are extremely self-reliant, must create their characters from within, and are forced to think of themselves first if they want to get far in the industry. Calling someone a "faggot" is in poor taste; there is no denying that. However, if this were an isolated incident that was born out of frayed nerves and long hours on set, the resulting hubbub would've been much more subdued. I see the news story as a move by his fellow cast members to publicly embarrass Washington in an attempt to get him off the show. Why? Simply put, they don't like him. This is, of course, extremely speculative. But, on-set incidents are commonplace in Hollywood. Personalities clash every day, but these altercations are mostly kept from the public. Washington's incident could've been bottled up. This is where I get my theory: Washington's cast members wanted the press to know what happened. Grey's Anatomy won't fire him. Shonda Rhimes, the creator, is smarter than that. I'm sure she did her homework and knew that Washington was capable of causing strife within the acting ranks on a set. In fact, I would argue that Isaiah being a jerk actually helps the show. Why? I'm reminded of a comment left on an article I wrote. I called Preston Burke one of the most worthless characters on TV, stating that Grey's would be better off without him. I now admit that my argument was short-sighted. F-Rod sums it up best: Walk into any hospital in America and you will find many Burke-like characters. Brilliant, selfish, egotistical geniuses, who are obsessed with power and have trouble with their people skills. If every single character on Grey's was thoroughly likable the show would be too unrealistic. The show needs a guy like this, even if the actor is a huge punk off-screen. Of course, this is true. Preston Burke, like Isaiah Washington, is a jerk. Why do you think he's so good in his role? How much easier is it for an actor to play scenes opposite a character who is a jerk, if the actor playing the jerk is also a jerk? This is method acting taken to its most extreme. The fact that Isaiah Washington is disliked by his castmates actively helps the show. Even if it is a Machiavellian outlook on TV casting, I'm happy about it. Whatever makes for a better show. So, of course Grey's Anatomy is going to keep Isaiah Washington around. I don't want to support the things he said. They are awful and hurtful. However, if someones is a jerk, they're a jerk. It doesn't reflect poorly on the cast and it doesn't make the public think less of anybody other than Washington himself. For a TV show to become a massive hit like Grey's Anatomy, the perfect storm has to occur. Perhaps Isaiah Washington being an ass was just another important part of the mixture that created the Grey's juggernaut. -Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer

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