Isaiah Washington Says Ellen Pompeo Was ‘Uncomfortable’ With Him Playing Her Love Interest On ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: She Had A Black Boyfriend Who May Have Had A Problem W/ Her Doing Love Scenes W/ Me
Isaiah Washington starred in the long-running ABC series from season one through season three.
While he played Dr. Preston Burke, he recalled in How To Save A Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy how he actually auditioned for the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. McDreamy), which ultimately went to actor Patrick Dempsey.
The tell-all, penned by Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large Lynette Rice, was released on Sept. 21.
Isaiah Washington recalled in the book,
“I didn’t audition for Burke, I auditioned for McDreamy.”
He alleged that the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, initially had a vision for the character to be “a brain surgeon who looked like Dr. Ben Carson.”
According to the book, he shared his side of not getting the part for Derek, who was the infamous love interest of Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo). He said,
“There’s a rumor out there or something that Ellen didn’t want me to be her love interest because she had a Black boyfriend. The context is that she’s not into white men. I guess she implied that her boyfriend may have had a problem with her doing love scenes with me, so she felt uncomfortable.”
He continued and said he “supported” her thoughts.
At the time, Ellen Pompeo was dating music producer and fashion executive Chris Ivery. They later married in 2007.
Pompeo shared her thoughts of Washington almost playing Derek Shepherd and said back in 2013 that Shonda Rhimes wanted “a Black man in the mix” to play McDreamy, but Pompeo said she,
“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. I said I wanted that Dempsey kid.”
Isaiah Washington was fired in 2007 after saying a homophobic slur on set. McDreamy was killed off at the end of season 11.
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