A 13-year-old feud and many firings: All the Grey's Anatomy behind-the-scenes drama in one place.

Neither Isaiah Washington nor Katherine Heigl have been on Grey's Anatomy for more than a decade but goodness, they are still... feuding.

Both Washington and Heigl have a bit of a 'reputation', and left the show on bad terms. (We'll run through the full story further down but quick recap: Washington was ousted after he was alleged to have yelled a homophobic slur about co-star T.R. Knight. From 2008-2010, Heigl was involved in a number of scandals, including the time she pulled out of Emmy contention because she didn't think her character's material was worthy.)

Watch: Throwback to Katherine Heigl on Grey's Anatomy. Post continues below video.

Video via ABC.

It turns out they were also having a feud amongst themselves and uh, it's been reunited. 

"This woman once proclaimed that I should 'never' be allowed to speak publicly again. The world agreed with her proclamation back then and protested for my job and my head in 65 languages. I wish I was on Twitter in 2007, because I will NEVER stop exercising my free speech," Washington, who played Dr Preston Burke, tweeted alongside an image of Heigl (Izzie Stevens).


He brought up Chandra Wilson, a.k.a Dr Miranda Bailey, in a response to a fan (who he also called "a fool, a liberal and misguided feminist) and said he was dredging up the past because it was "the TRUTH".

A source told US Weekly Heigl had stood up for her her close friend Knight when Washington publicly outed him as gay and used slurs.

Washington had no response from Heigl, Wilson or any other cast members, prompting him to ask why they hadn't "clapped back".

Washington has buckled down in recent days - he likened Perez Hilton to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, 'dared' Ellen Pompeo to stop 'hiding behind her publicist' and insinuated her role on Grey's - which has made her one of the highest paid female actors on TV - was not a 'real and respectable acting job'.


It's far from the only Grey's drama. Beyond its ability to make you cry every episode, Grey's Anatomy is dramatic as hell.

Behind-the-scenes there's been fights, an acknowledged 'toxic culture' and a lot of firings (some warranted and some... not). Here's a complete timeline.


This is when the Washington and Knight drama first came to light.

Washington yelled a homophobic slur about Knight (Dr George O'Malley) at Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy, but you knew that already) during a literal on-set fist fight.

Knight came out of the closet in a People magazine story published 10 days after the incident.

Washington apologised on October 26, but in January the issue resurfaced when he repeated the word, saying "I did not call T.R. a f*****. Never happened," at the 2007 Golden Globes.

"I apologise to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance," Washington said in a statement after the awards show. "By repeating the word Monday night, I marred what should have been a perfect night for everyone who works on Grey's Anatomy. I can neither defend nor explain my behaviour. I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I've asked for help."

Washington as Dr Preston Burke. Image: ABC.


On Twitter in November 2020, Washington said he should never have apologised.

The Washington Examiner reported Heigl was "irate" with Washington's comments in the Golden Globes press room and said: "He needs to just not speak in public. Period".

"T.R. is my best friend. I will throw down for that kid. I will beat you up. I will use every ounce of energy I have to take you down if you hurt his feelings," she was reported as saying at a Globes after-party.

Image: ABC.

In June 2007, ABC announced it would not be renewing Washington's contract and he would be dropped from the show.

In a statement reacting to his axing, Washington said he was "mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore".


A month later in July, Washington appeared on Larry King Live on CNN and said he never used the "F Word" in reference to Knight, but rather told Dempsey to stop treating him like a "F-word" during an argument "provoked" by Dempsey, who, he felt, was treating him like a "B-word", a "P-word", and the "F-word", which Washington said he meant to mean "somebody who is being weak".

Washington's drama got him fired - though he made a brief reappearance for Sandra Oh's (Cristina Yang) final storyline.


In 2008, Heigl pulled her name from Emmy contention despite winning an Emmy the season before.

Image: ABC.

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Heigl explained her decision by throwing some major shade at the show's writers.

"I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination, and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organisation, I withdrew my name from contention," she said.

The show's writers and producers were reportedly (and understandably) pissed, but Rhimes said the reason Heigl's character was given less material than previous seasons was because she had requested a lighter schedule.

Though Izzie remained a core part of the show for season six, this Emmy debacle seemed to be the beginning of the end for Heigl's character.



In 2009, Knight announced he was leaving the show, frustrated by the lack of screen time his character George was receiving.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly he said he did not discuss this frustration, which saw George appear in just 48 minutes in the first nine episodes of season five, with Rhimes due to a "breakdown of communication". Instead he just decided to leave.

"My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]," he explained. "And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that."

Heigl continued to be a little shady throughout 2009 and publicly complained about the show during a talkshow appearance.

Heigl complained about long filming days on The Late Show With David Letterman (even though, according to BuddyTV, she caused the long days because producers were trying to accommodate her media tour for rom-com The Ugly Truth).

"Our first day back was Wednesday and it was - I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them - a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean."

When Letterman asked how much longer she'd be on the show she replied: "Yeah, that's what I keep wondering".


Oh, it turns out Letterman's question was very timely because within months, Heigl was on the way out.

Rumours that the actress would leave Grey's Anatomy persisted throughout season six, partly because Heigl had not been shy about wanting to focus on her movie career.

Then, on March 11, 2010, Heigl reportedly did not show up for work... So she and Rhimes reached an agreement to immediately release her from her contract.


More than two years later in 2012, show creator Shonda Rhimes was still not stoked with how things went down with Heigl.

"On some level, it stung," she told TV Guide of Heigl's exit, "and on some level I was not surprised. When people show you who they are, believe them."

Image: ABC.


The same year, Eric Dane (Mark Sloan, a.k.a McSteamy, a.k.a the TV death I will never recover from) was written out of the show.

He made a small dig at the show in an interview with French news outlet Programme TV, saying - according to an English translation - that on Grey's he was "just a piece of meat".


In 2013, Pompeo told the New York Post she understood why Heigl wanted to leave, but the scandal surrounding her exit took its toll on the cast.

Image: ABC.


"Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge paychecks started things spinning out of control," she said.

"It was tough. You could understand why she wanted to go - when you're offered $12 million a movie and you're only 26. But [Heigl'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."

Then Pompeo couldn't resist a dig at her former co-star: "And then her movie career did not take off."



Washington returned to Grey's Anatomy was Oh's final episode in season 10, neatly wrapping up her storyline. But that decision copped Rhimes a lot of criticism - he was fired seven years earlier following homophobic slurs, remember.

"My first decision and my first responsibility is to the story. I have to be the keeper of the story and make sure that we're telling the story we need to tell, regardless of whatever outside factors are involved or whatever history is involved," Rhimes told Entertainment Weekly at the time, defending her decision.

"I also want to just be clear that Isaiah is a person that we all love and have loved for a very long time. I feel like there have been a lot of people that have been like, 'How can you do this?' And I feel very strongly and fully believe in people's ability to grow and change and learn from their mistakes and when they know better, to do better.

"If people don't think that, over the course of seven years, it's possible for a human being to change, then there really is no future for the human race at all."

In October 2014, Rhimes made her infamous 'no Heigls' on set policy comment to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I don't put up with bullsh** or nasty people. I don't have time for it," she said.

A month later, Heigl responded during an appearance on Extra.

"I'm sorry that she feels that way, and I wish her nothing but greatness, and I have nothing negative to say about Shonda. I'm a big fan of her work," she said.

"I watch Scandal every week. I'm sorry she's left with such a crappy impression of me. I wish I could do something to change that. Maybe I will be able to someday."


In 2015 rumours were flying that Dempsey, a.k.a Dr Derek 'McDreamy' Shepherd was about to be fired.

Image: ABC.

His character was shipped off to D.C for much of season 11 and ultimately uh... *spoiler alert* didn't make it beyond that season, despite being contracted for season 12.

On April 20, 2015 (just three days before the season 11 episode where Derek died was aired) a show source told Page Six it was down to 'diva' behaviour from the show lead.

"Patrick has been acting like a diva and has clashed with Shonda," they said. "She suspended him for a while, and the word on set is that he isn’t coming back full time."

"Given all the past problems with Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington, there is little tolerance on the show for troublesome talent."

In November of that year Rhimes admitted during an appearance on The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore that she has killed off a character from one of her shows because didn't personally like the actor.

She never revealed who she was talking about, but the timing was... curious.

Dempsey responded a month later to say he thought Rhimes "loves being provocative and that's fine for who she is".

"That gets people talking about all the stuff that she's doing. She's promoting a book. She's promoting three shows. I think she knows how to deal with the media and what she needs to say to get the response that she's looking for," he told Entertainment Weekly.



Six years later, Heigl admitted she probably shouldn't have withdrawn herself from Emmy contention and shaded the writers in the process.

"I didn't feel good about my performance. There was a part of me that thought, because I had won the year before, that I needed juicy, dramatic, emotional material. And I just didn't have that that season," she said on The Howard Stern Show in April 2016.

"I was treating it a little black and white and taking it a little personally, but I think there were 12 series regulars on that show, and everybody deserved their juicy, dramatic, emotional season.

"I was really embarrassed. So, I went in to Shonda and said, 'I'm so sorry. That was not cool. I should not have said that.' And I shouldn't have said anything publicly," she continued. "But at the time, I didn't think anybody would notice ... I just quietly didn't submit. Then it became a story, and then I felt obligated to make my statement."


By this point, all Grey's was missing is some pay drama. 

Enter: Meredith Grey.

Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter in January 2018 she had attempted to negotiate salaries alongside Dempsey during his time on the show, but he never responded.

"For me, Patrick leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise.

"They could always use him as leverage against me - 'We don't need you; we have Patrick' - which they did for years. I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals.

"There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey. They wouldn't give it to me. 

"And I could have walked away, so why didn't I? It's my show; I'm the number one. I'm sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, 'I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'"


Later that year, Pompeo told Jada Pinkett Smith on Red Table Talk she and Dempsey hadn't spoken since his 2015 departure, though she had "no hard feelings toward him".

(Side note: McDreamy returned to Grey's for a gues appearance in 2020, and Pompeo is said to have enlisted him for that, so perhaps all is well after all!)


I think this story has well and truly demonstrated that Grey's Anatomy's set was a toxic environment. But in case there was any doubt, Pompeo actually said it explicitly in an interview with Empire's Taraji P. Henson for Variety.

She said there were times she considered leaving the series because of it all.

"The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behaviour, really toxic work environment," she explained.

"After Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years. My mission became, this can't be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes.

"Shonda Rhimes and I decided to rewrite the ending of this story. That's what’s kept me. Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, and the studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission."


And we've come full circle, with Washington and Heigl's names dominated the Grey's off-screen drama (though... Heigl very clearly did not ask for this).

Washington (who also tweets lamenting socialism and 'the left', and retweets video of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dubbed with Hitler speeches) doesn't seem like he's willing to leave the 'feud' in 2007 where it belongs.

In a response to a fan, who tweeted an image of Heigl, he said "sociopaths can be beautiful" and claimed "T.R lied, because Katherine Heigl told him to".

This Twitter account is... a lot to take in.

At this point, no past-or-present Grey's cast have given him the attention he's after.

If this real-life stuff isn't enough (or just... too much to absorb), Grey's is streaming all its fictional drama on Stan.

Feature image: ABC.

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