Many actors have come and gone during “Grey’s Anatomy’s” 10 season run, but the most controversial exits to this day remain to be Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington‘s high-profile send-offs. Many of the remaining cast members have remained mum about the situations surrounding both series regulars’ exits, but star Ellen Pompeo finally broke her silence.
Pompeo — a “Grey’s Anatomy” regular since Season 1 — recently opened up to the New York Post in an interview about both Heigl and Washington’s controversial exits from the long-running ABC drama. “Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control,” Pompeo says. “The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. Maybe it is my Boston, blue-collar upbringing. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me.”
Pompeo admits that Heigl’s departure was “tough,” but understood why she made her decision. “You could understand why she wanted to go — when you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26,” Pompeo says. “But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off.”
As for Washington’s exit, the circumstances surrounding his leave were less career-oriented as the actor used homophobic slurs on-set and backstage at the 2007 Golden Globe Awards. Pompeo revealed that Washington was actually supposed to play her onscreen boyfriend in place of Patrick Dempsey.
“[Creator] Shonda [Rhimes] really wanted to put a black man in the mix,” Pompeo says. “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.” Chris Ivery, Pompeo’s husband of six years, is African-American. “I said, ‘I wanted that Dempsey kid.’ I think that once Isaiah did not get the role it backfired.”