ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy is reinstating actor Isaiah Washington in May 2014 to provide closure for fans and facilitate the exit of Sandra Oh’s character, Dr. Cristina Yang. The actor played Dr. Preston Burke, a brilliant surgeon and serious love interest of Dr. Yang, for the first three years of the hit ABC series until anti-gay slurs and a subsequent very well-publicized scandal prompted the actor’s dismissal from the series in 2007.
Washington’s controversial exit seven years ago from the hit ABC series resulted from continuing on-set tension and cast confrontations that erupted in the aftermath of homophobic remarks made by the actor toward his then-closeted gay co-star T.R. Knight, who played Dr. George O’Malley until 2009 when his character was killed off in a bus accident. The actor also repeated the slur backstage at the 2007 Golden Globe awards further agitating the situation. The actor made a public apology and appeared on Larry King Live to explain his side of the story. However, the damage was already done and the show opted not to renew his contract after the third season.
Washington’s reinstatement to ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy coincides with Oh’s planned departure from the series this May. There was speculation at the time of the actress’ announcement that Burke could return to provide closure and facilitate her exit. Closure will be needed given that the last time Washington’s Dr. Burke was seen on-screen, he had left Oh’s Dr. Yang standing at the altar and did not even leave a note. Little information has been provided about Burke’s whereabouts and evolution since his much-publicized exit from the show. This return will be short-lived and is rumored to be only one episode sometime in May. An airdate has yet to be announced.
Washington first garnered notice as an actor in the 1990s in several Spike Lee films and worked steadily in films and TV guest spots until he was cast in Grey’s Anatomy in 2005, which remains his most notable role to date. However, following the controversy surrounding his exit from the show, the actor’s career has suffered significantly. The backlash over his derogatory remarks have derailed his career and continue to haunt him. The actor has tried to make amends by meeting with gay-rights organizations and doing humanitarian work in areas such as Sierra Leone. In recent years, the actor has also discovered ancestral roots to Sierra Leone via DNA mapping and even penned a book about the experience. Moreover, he has roles in the upcoming film Blue Caprice and new CW series The 100.
Washington reinstatement to ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy to provide closure for fans and facilitate the exit of Sandra Oh’s character, Dr. Cristina Yang, only makes sense given the central relationship the two characters shared. The characters and their romance were pivotal to the show’s early success and fans are curious to see the evolution of Burke since he exited the show. Creator Shonda Rhimes remarked on Burke’s importance to Yang’s evolution and closure when Washington’s return was announced. There would not be proper closure for the character or her journey without Burke. It is essential to bring both characters and their journeys full circle. So, will Burke and Yang ride off in the sunset together? The viewers will learn the answer by this season’s finale episode in May.
By Leigh Haugh