Anatomy of Isaiah Washington’s fall
Starring on one of TV’s hottest series is an actor’s dream, and Isaiah Washington fought hard to keep his role as Dr. Preston Burke on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
But after twice using an anti-gay slur, Washington was doomed to lose the biggest role of his career because of timing, a track record of volatile behavior and pressure within the industry.
While series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes wept when she got on the phone last Thursday, June 7, to tell Washington he was out, the decision was a coolly calculated move by Rhimes’ bosses at the network and ABC Television Studios.
His “pattern of behavior” represented a potential liability that was too much risk for the Walt Disney Co.-owned companies, a source close to the production said. The source was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The operation to remove Washington, 43, was quick and neat. The studio declined to exercise his contract option for another season Washington would have earned about $2.7 million in salary and he was dumped shortly after the May finale.
With Dr. Burke conveniently written out of the show in the last episode, the move had to have been planned for some time.
Washington was undone by a spat last October with co-star Patrick Dempsey in which he used the epithet to refer to fellow cast member T.R. Knight. Washington issued a public apology for his behavior and “unfortunate” use of words, and media attention waned.
But in January, Washington reignited the furor during a backstage interview at the Golden Globes in which he denied having used the slur, then uttered it again.
The decision to let Washington go was made by executives including ABC Studios President Mark Pedowitz, ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson and Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney. ABC and the studio declined comment this week, but Washington said he was “saddened” by the outcome.
“I can only apologize so many times. I can only accept so much responsibility,” he told EW.com in an interview published Wednesday, June 13. ” … Isaiah will go on and do what I love to do. And I have to go about the business of letting people know what’s written about me is not the truth.”
Mischa Barton to star in film about fake lesbian band t.A.T.u.
Remember t.A.T.u. that catchy Russian girl group where the two singers dressed like schoolgirls and made out? And then they wound up being fake lesbians who exploited the girl-on-girl thing just for publicity? And then they disappeared?
Get ready for the t.A.T.u. revival, as “O.C.” star Mischa Barton will star in “Finding t.A.T.u.,” a drama about a young American woman in Russia who bonds with a female local over their mutual love of the musical duo.
The book on which the film is based features a lesbian affair between the two lead characters, but director Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields,” “Captivity”) is keeping mum over whether Mischa will get her lady-lovin’ on in the movie version. Perhaps more nuggets will surface when shooting begins this month.
Jackie Chan’s gay mobster swings American
The recent Oscar win for “The Departed” has made U.S. remakes of Hong Kong movies a hot commodity, so it’s probably no surprise that producer Andrew Tennenbaum (the “Bourne” trilogy) is set to make an American version of the Jackie Chan-produced “Enter the Phoenix.”
The Hong Kong action-comedy has a plot ripe with comedic potential: A powerful mobster dies, and his son is expected to take over as head of the mob. But his son is flamboyantly gay and has no interest in the position, so his boyfriend takes over in his place, all the while keeping both men’s sexual orientation a secret.
Perhaps we’ll see some stunt-casting involving the actor who played gay Mafioso Vito on “The Sopranos?”
Spacey brings Almodovar’s “‘All About My Mother’ to the stage
Many of Pedro Almodovar’s screenplays feature meaty dialogue, soaring melodrama and great roles for actresses of a certain age, so why not adapt them for the stage?
Actor Kevin Spacey wearing his hat as artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre has commissioned an English-language play based on Almodovar’s Oscar-winning “All About My Mother.” The film tells the story of Manuela, a nurse who witnesses the death of her beloved teenage son, then sets out to find his father, now a drug-addicted transgendered woman named Lola.
The curtain rises August 24 in London.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.