Isaiah Washington Claims He Was Paid $10K To Not Audition For ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Derek Shepherd + Alleges Ellen Pompeo ‘Took $5 Million Under The Table’ To Stay Silent About Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Toxic’ Behavior
Isaiah Washington is sharing his side of what went down behind the scenes of ABC’s hit series Grey’s Anatomy.
While on Tavis Smiley’s podcast, Isaiah Washington, 58, claimed Ellen Pompeo was paid $5 million to keep quiet about her on-screen husband, Patrick Dempsey’s conduct on set.
Isaiah Washington first alleged that he was paid $10,000 to not audition for the role of Derek Shepherd, who Patrick Dempsey ultimately portrayed. Isaiah Washington played Preston Burke for the first three seasons of the popular medical drama before getting fired for using a homophobic slur on set.
“I originally went in to be Derek Shepherd, a brain surgeon. I was paid $10,000 not to take the audition. Or do any television. I took the money.”
Still, he added that he auditioned because he wanted to portray
“the highest level of my intellect and build my brand.”
“I got called back, read with Ellen Pompeo. She made the executive decision [not to hire me] because she had a Black boyfriend, she didn’t feel comfortable. Now she said that to me at catering once I was actually on the show as Dr. Burke. I was passed over, it was over.”
Ellen Pompeo previously spoke on Washington auditioning for Derek Shepherd and told The New York Post in 2013,
“You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend. Shonda [Rhimes] really wanted to put a Black man in the mix. I 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.”
While he still landed a starring role on the show, Washington recalled not receiving the warmest welcome from his new co-stars. He said of his first day on set,
“I was at a table read, Peter Horton, formally of Thirtysomething, came over and said, ‘I thought we got rid of you.’ Patrick Dempsey walks in, didn’t think I could see him with the reflection, throws up his hands, like, ‘What is he doing here?’ That’s day one.”
He added that despite his attempt to sport his dreadlocks and goatee in an effort to question “What does our intellect have to do with our hair?”, he was contacted the evening before his first table read and told to cut his hair and goatee.
“Now this is an opportunity to play an incredible character, I’m getting a second chance. I call my barber and he gets to my condo at about midnight. I’m getting a haircut and I’m shaving this goatee off because now I can play this strong, powerful and beautiful male who was at the height of my intellect and who was in charge. So I’m thinking, ‘This is a positive.'”
But the show’s creator Shonda Rhimes had a different take and reportedly asked Isaiah Washington the next day,
“What did you f***ing do?”
As for his feud with Patrick Dempsey, Washington explained,
“At this point, I was the highest paid person on that show, next to Patrick Dempsey. Apparently, it got out, so there was a lot of resentment. I understand that but it was based on my roles and my resume. I can’t help that. He was called Pilot Poison. No one wanted him on the show. They wanted Rob Lowe.”
He went on to allege that Patrick Dempsey proudly touted the authority of white men.
“He was not a nice guy from day one. But he liked me and once I had a conversation with him, he said, ‘Isaiah, do you know that white men are the masters of the universe?’ And I said, ‘You really believe that?’ And he said ‘Absolutely.’”
He alleges things got physical as Dempsey’s “simmering disrespect” became more obvious, including Dempsey constantly arriving to set late.
“That Monday, he is late. Instead of apologizing for it, he got in my face and assaulted me three times. Physically. I did what I had to do as a man. And I cussed him out.”
“‘You’re not going to punk me, you’re not going to treat me like a B-word and you’re not going to treat me like an F-word.’ I was speaking to myself as we refer to as a schoolyard taunt and weakness. Talking about myself. But I had already heard the abuse [allegations regarding] Kate Walsh. … That he terrorized T. R. Knight.”
Despite T.R. Knight (George O’Malley), who is openly gay, not being in the room at the time, a subsequent complaint claimed Washington used the slur against him.
While he and Dempsey resolved their issues, Washington claimed Dempsey taunted him on his final day on set.
“It went from us having a brawl, which was never a brawl, to me saying something about T.R. And the day I left, the last day I shot, Patrick said, ‘Dude, you think you got it bad. You get to go down in history. Being a homophobe. I get to go down in history saving the gay guy.'”
Washington denied using the word against T.R. Knight during an infamous Golden Globes moment, which left him blackballed in Hollywood for years.
“I was gagged at the Golden Globes. The narrative changed and then it got stuck on me. I was coerced to apologize. But when I used the word during the Golden Globes then everybody could say, ‘He must have said it on the set and he must have said it to T.R. because he just said it.’ I told the truth, it just wasn’t the right time to tell the truth.”
As for Ellen Pompeo, Washington claimed she had an issue with his TV relationship with Sandra Oh (who portrayed Christina Yang) serving as a popular favorite among fans.
He referenced a previous story she told about lashing at Denzel Washington when he directed an episode and said,
“She couldn’t believe that everybody was more interested in me and Sandra [Oh]and everybody else than her. So I am not shocked that she said what she said [about Denzel Washington]. She really thinks that she’s cool with Black people like that, but she’s not.”
He concluded and alleged that during the Me Too movement, she
“took $5 million dollars under the table to not tell the world how toxic and nasty Patrick Dempsey really was.”
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