Grey’s Anatomy feud explainer: Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington
Considering Grey’s Anatomy is such a drama-filled rollercoaster of a show, you’d think that the stars would want peace and harmony off-screen. But it turns out, some of the biggest drama on that show goes down when the cameras are turned off.
Take, for example, Katherine Heigl, who played Izzy Stevens, and Isaiah Washington, who played Dr. Burke. They both have a bit of a reputation, each allegedly leaving the show on bad terms. But there’s also a sizzling feud between the two actors, one which Washington recently reignited online.
Here’s everything that went down with Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington.
Why did Katherine Heigl leave Grey’s Anatomy?
While Heigl told press that she left the show to spend time with her family, there have been plenty of other rumours claiming bad behaviour, and her belief that she show was ‘beneath her’.
Fans may remember that her character’s departure from the show was fractured –– Izzy left for a bit with no notice, came back for a few episodes, and then left again for good.
The drama with Heigl started in 2008 when she withdrew her name from Emmy consideration, a year after winning the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She told the LA Times:
“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.”
Her co-stars didn’t take too kindly to this statement, and neither did the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes. Heigl says that she apologised to Rhimes shortly afterwards: “That wasn’t cool, and I should not have said that. And I shouldn’t have said anything publicly.”
Rhimes says she was hurt by Heigl’s actions.
“On some level it stung and on some level I was not surprised,” she told Oprah in 2012. “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
Later, when Rhimes created the show Scandal, she told THR that she wasn’t hiring “a–holes” or “nasty people”, adding “there are no Heigls in this situation”.
Less than two years after the Emmy statement, Heigl departed the show amid rumours that she was difficult to work with. Some sources claimed that she wanted more airtime and ‘juicier’ scenes, while others claim she left to focus on her film career, and that Grey’s was beneath her.
RELATED: What happened to Katherine Heigl?
Was Katherine Heigl supposed to come back to Grey’s Anatomy?
The reason Heigl’s character, Izzy, didn’t get a proper send-off from the show is because Heigl never showed up to film it. According to showrunner Krista Vernoff, she was supposed to get a proper goodbye.
“We had planned to have her come back for an episode to really properly tie up Izzie and Alex,” Vernoff told the Los Angeles Times in 2020. “I wrote that episode, and it was beautiful. The day before it was supposed to start prepping or shooting, I can’t remember, we got a call that Katie wasn’t coming. Just wasn’t coming. Wasn’t going to do it.”
Heigl reportedly hit back at the claims, with sources close to the actress telling Entertainment Weekly, “Krista is mistaken. Katherine was back in LA after parental leave waiting to be called to set.”
Why did Isaiah Washington leave Grey’s Anatomy?
Washington’s character, Preston Burke, left the show abruptly, leaving Cristina at the altar with zero warning. That’s because the actor was fired from the show for using a homophobic slur in an argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey.
Apparently the slur was directed at T.R. Knight, who played George O’Malley. When the press got wind of Washington’s use of the word, in 2006, Knight came out as gay before the press could out him. According to the Washington Post, Washington apologised, but then said the same slur a few months later backstage at the Golden Globes.
Shortly after that ABC decided not to renew his contract and he left the show at the end of Season 3.
Almost a year later, when a photo of Washington as Dr Burke appeared on-screen in a newspaper clipping, he filed a complaint with the Screen Actors Guild against Grey’s for using his face.
His character came back for a short scene in Season 10 when Cristina Yang was leaving, a choice for which Rhimes faced a lot of backlash. “It’s important to me that Cristina’s journey unfolds exactly as it should,” she said in a statement. “Burke is vital to that journey — he gives her story that full-circle moment we need to properly say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Yang.”
What happened between Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington?
Considering they’re the two most controversial actors to have starred on Grey’s Anatomy, there’s no surprise that there has been bad blood between Katherine Heigl and Isaiah Washington.
Their so-called ‘feud’ started when Washington made the derogatory comments about Knight back in 2006. At the time, Heigl told the press: “He needs to just not speak in public. Period. T.R. is my best friend. I will throw down for that kid.”
While they seemingly have had no contact over the last decade, Washington reignited their feud in November 2020 with some tweets that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“This woman once proclaimed that I should ‘never’ be allowed to speak publicly again,” Washington tweeted, including a photo of the 27 Dresses star. “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.”
He then called her the “first Karen” and “nobody of importance”, then added, “I’ve learned that all money ain’t good money and no amount of money can replace your dignity and integrity. Some call it living by your principles.”
It’s unclear why he brought this up again, 13 years later, but a source close to Heigl told E! News that she has no regrets. “Katherine stood up for her close friend twice when Isaiah publicly outed him and called him a f—-t. That’s hate talk, not free speech.”
What is Isaiah Washington doing now?
He’s still acting, he had a four-season role on TV show The 100, a guest-arc on P Valley, and appeared in a handful of films.
Last year Isaiah Washington came out as a Trump voter, a supporter of QAnon, and has spoken about how 5G causes coronavirus.
What is Katherine Heigl doing now?
Since leaving Grey’s a decade ago, Heigl leaned into a career in rom-coms, acting in films like New Year’s Day, Life As We Know It, and One For The Money. She starred on TV show Suits for two seasons and is set to appear in upcoming Netflix show Firefly Lane.