Inside ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Many Behind-the-Scenes Scandals, From Diva Antics to Sudden Exits

After greater than 16 years dominating primetime tv, there hasn’t been a community present that has measured as much as the long-running success of Shonda Rhimes’ Gray’s Anatomy.

Not solely did it assist flip Rhimes right into a bona fide pressure in Hollywood, it additionally created stars out of Sandra Oh and Katherine Heigl and led to Ellen Pompeo being named the highest-paid actress in a drama series in 2018, raking in $575,000 per episode as titular character Meredith Gray, in addition to introducing the time period “vajayjay” and phrase “you’re my particular person” to the cultural lexicon.

However regardless of the reducing of LVAD wires, quite a few shock deaths, a gentle stream of fascinating medical anomalies, and even a musical episode, a lot of the true drama of Seattle Grace Hospital passed off behind the scenes.

Lynette Rice, an editor-at-large at Leisure Weekly who coated the present in the course of the top of its frenzy, spoke with greater than 80 forged and crew members, writers, producers, ABC executives, and inside sources about precisely what went down on TV’s hottest medical drama for her new e-book How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, out Sept. 21 from St. Martin’s Press.

Whereas the e-book touches on episode plot factors, revisits fan-favorite characters, together with Denny Duquette (performed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and options interviews with bands that created songs synonymous with the present, Rice tells The Each day Beast that she was most concerned with diving into “what the present was wish to make and the way laborious it was to make and why it form of went off the rails comparatively rapidly.”

The first inkling of inner turmoil came when news leaked that a physical altercation broke out between Isaiah Washington, who performed the stoic Dr. Preston Burke, and Patrick Dempsey’s Dr. Derek Shepherd, aka “McDreamy,” in October 2006.

These on set that day recalled to Rice that Washington not solely pinned Dempsey up towards a wall and lashed out at him for exhibiting up late to set, but in addition referred to his co-star T.R. Knight (who performed intern George O’Malley) with a homophobic slur. (Knight had not publicly come out but.) Issues allegedly acquired so heated that Heigl was one of many few individuals who jumped as much as assist break up the scuffle.

Everybody tried to minimize the altercation at first, however when Washington used the slur once more when making an attempt to defend himself on the Golden Globes only a few months later, tensions allegedly boiled over with a pissed-off Heigl telling Access Hollywood at an after-party, “I’m going to be really honest right now, he needs to just not speak in public, period. I’m not OK with it.”

Talking with Rice, Heigl says her remarks got here after “a pair glasses of champagne” and out of wanting to stay up for Knight. “I used to be livid and pissed off for my pal and sick of the entire mess of it,” she says. “I used to be lately speaking to T.R. about this and I mentioned, ‘I hope I didn’t embarrass you and draw extra consideration to one thing that you simply simply wished to go away.’ And he mentioned I might by no means have embarrassed him and that he was so grateful as a result of nobody had ever stood up for him that means earlier than. In order that was a proud second for me. I don’t remorse it. And I’m simply grateful my pal doesn’t remorse it.”

In order that was a proud second for me. I don’t remorse it. And I’m simply grateful my pal doesn’t remorse it.

Finally a call was reached between the community, studio and Rhimes, who gave Washington’s character by all accounts a swish exit, having him go away Oh’s character Cristina Yang on the altar within the Could 2007 episode, “Didn’t We Nearly Have It All?”

Reflecting on the occasions with Rice, Washington was deeply remorseful however nonetheless didn’t appear to understand the severity of what he had executed. “I can solely apologize so many instances,” he’s quoted within the e-book. “I can settle for solely a lot accountability. I simply hope folks within the business can perceive that it’s a horrible misunderstanding what transpired with our present, and it was blown out of proportion.”

However an surprising sufferer from Washington’s self-implosion was Knight, who was primarily outed by way of the leaked information of the struggle. Deciding to address the situation head-on a few days after the scuffle, Knight made a statement to People: “I’d wish to quiet any pointless rumors which may be on the market. Whereas I favor to maintain my private life personal, I hope the truth that I’m homosexual isn’t essentially the most attention-grabbing a part of me.”

Rhimes claimed that Knight popping out wouldn’t have an effect on his character, however his display time regularly shrunk—prompting Knight to request to go away the present in Season 5. “There simply comes a time when it’s so clear that shifting on is one of the best choice,” Knight tells Rice. “My five-year expertise proved to me that I couldn’t belief any reply that was given [about George]… I by no means made any calls for, like, ‘You do that, or else.’ I used to be all the time very respectful. In any type of inventive course of, there are going to be disagreements.”


Gray’s Anatomy government producers Shonda Rhimes and Peter Horton with James Pickens, Jr., Loretta Devine, and Patrick Dempsey.

Craig Sjodin/Walt Disney Tv

It didn’t assist that Knight’s beloved character of George O’Malley was killed off by actually being thrown underneath a bus, left horribly disfigured and unable to talk.

“It was simply bizarre, the entire thing,” make-up director Norman Leavitt advised Rice. “It was actually uncomfortable and T.R. didn’t should be there.”

“He wished off the present, in order that they actually threw him underneath the bus,” Tom Burman, who labored on the particular results make-up crew, added. “He by no means complained as soon as, and after we had his complete head coated, he by no means complained as soon as. They punished him for desirous to get off the present. Petty, huh?”

And whereas Rhimes supplied to have Knight reprise his character in flashback episodes, he by no means accepted the invitation—not less than till late 2020, when he appeared in Meredith’s dream.

Heigl had her personal acrimonious exit in 2010. The rising star, who was rumored to need off the present so she might pursue extra movie roles, was branded a diva and ungrateful after she took a swipe at Rhimes and the present’s writers when she huffed that she hadn’t submitted her title to be thought of for an Emmy as a result of she felt the fabric that she was given in Season 4 was subpar.

Years later, Heigl is keen to confess that she was improper. “I assumed I used to be doing the precise factor,” she tells Rice within the e-book. “And I wished to be clear that I wasn’t snubbing the Emmys. The night time I gained was the spotlight of my profession. I simply was afraid that if I mentioned, ‘No remark,’ it was going to return off like I couldn’t be bothered [to enter the race]. I might have extra gracefully mentioned that with out going into a personal work matter. It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn’t very good or honest.”

I might have extra gracefully mentioned that with out going into a personal work matter. It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn’t very good or honest.

However for all of the drama packed into the e-book’s 281 pages, Rice ends with maybe essentially the most revealing tidbit of all. “[Grey’s Anatomy] is the story of one of many best successes in tv historical past,” an unnamed supply tells Rice. “However to me, the true story is rarely going to be absolutely advised, as a result of folks gained’t discuss—not less than on the report, like me.”

As one other insider places it, “Nobody needs to piss [Rhimes] off.”

Rice says that over the course of her reporting, she heard from not less than two legal professionals who warned her away from sure subjects. Whereas she didn’t get into element on what rumors she was cautioned towards pursuing, noticeably absent from the e-book is maybe one of many juiciest alleged scandals of all, which reportedly helped fast-track golden boy Dempsey’s exit.

It was no secret that Dempsey had grown bored with enjoying McDreamy for 11 seasons, turning into a trouble to work with. His habits was exacerbated by the customarily 15-hour-long workdays, capturing 10 months out of the 12 months, coupled with him desirous to pursue different alternatives and to deal with his racing profession.

“There have been HR points,” producer James D. Parriott tells Rice. “It wasn’t sexual in any means. He type of was terrorizing the set. Some forged members had all kinds of PTSD with him. He had this maintain on the set the place he knew he might cease manufacturing and scare folks.”

With the forged and crew reportedly bored with his antics, Rhimes gave Dempsey his want and killed off his character following a automobile accident in “How one can Save a Life,” which aired in April 2015.

However InTouch printed a narrative a month after Dempsey’s shock departure, which was stored a secret proper up till the episode aired, claiming to have the true scoop on why he was given the boot: Dempsey was allegedly having a secret affair with someone on the show. (Dempsey’s hair stylist-wife Jillian Fink, whom he married in 1999, had filed for divorce in Jan. 2015, though the 2 reconciled later that 12 months.)

At the time, Rice secured the only interview with Dempsey about his departure from Grey’s. Though she introduced up that he had beforehand signed a deal that may hold him on the drama via Season 12, Dempsey was imprecise concerning the sudden change of plans. “It simply form of occurred,” he supplied. “[Being written off] was one thing that was form of stunning and uh, simply naturally got here to be. I like the best way it has all performed out.”

Rice hints that she did attempt to chase down the affair rumor, however she wasn’t in a position to fairly nail it down. “If I didn’t have sufficient, I didn’t go together with it,” she explains. “You hear loads of tales about what’s occurred on that present. The one level that I do attempt to make too, is quoting anyone, they didn’t wish to be named however they are saying, ‘The true Gray’s Anatomy story won’t ever in all probability be advised as a result of no person needs to go on the report.’ In the end, you’re coping with private lives right here. You wish to be rattling positive that you’ve got the affirmation earlier than you progress on one thing.”

Whereas rumors concerning the nature of Dempsey’s exit, in addition to Justin Chambers’ (who performed Dr. Alex Karev) departure in 2020 have been attention-grabbing to Rice, she says she was most interested by Rhimes’ departure from ABC, lured away by streaming large Netflix with a multi-year deal in 2017.

It was stunning as a result of ABC helped launch Rhimes’ profession with the success of Gray’s Anatomy, its spinoffs Non-public Observe and Station 19, in addition to championing her different hit reveals Scandal and How one can Get Away with Homicide, all of which played back-to-back-to-back under the lineup “Thank God It’s Thursday (TGIT).”

…she says she was most interested by Rhimes’ departure from ABC, lured away by streaming large Netflix with a multi-year deal in 2017.

While the estimated $100-$150 million payday Netflix shelled out to Rhimes would be a hard offer to refuse, it appears that evidently as with most of Rhimes’ exits, there was some behind-the-scenes pressure—solely this time she was the one hinting at her grievances.

“I felt like I used to be dying,” Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter last year of keeping up with the demands of producing multiple shows for ABC. “Like I’d been pushing the identical ball up the identical hill in the very same means for a very very long time.”

However it appears the tipping level got here when Rhimes made a comparatively innocuous request of ABC over her all-inclusive passes to Disneyland. There was a hiccup whereas her sister and nanny have been visiting the theme park, so Rhimes referred to as an ABC government to assist straighten issues out. As a substitute, she was allegedly advised, “Don’t you’ve got sufficient?” Just a few months later, Rhimes was off to Netflix.

Sources accustomed to the negotiation appeared barely bitter about Rhimes once they talked to Rice, with some going out of their technique to spotlight how her short-lived reveals Catch and Nonetheless Star-Crossed didn’t fare in addition to her different sequence. “She did loads of reveals for us that didn’t work, which individuals don’t actually write about,” a former ABC insider is quoted as saying.


The forged of Gray’s Anatomy pose within the press room on the thirty seventh Annual NAACP Picture Awards on the Shrine Auditorium on February 25, 2006, in Los Angeles, California.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Former ABC Leisure Group President Channing Dungey talked about that individuals usually query how an organization would survive with out its star expertise, saying that with Rhimes gone, ABC had the possibility to offer new expertise a possibility to succeed.

One other ABC government who knew of the talks quipped that “historical past has proven it was the precise choice [to let Rhimes go],” as a result of it apparently had freed up ABC’s cash to place into different developments, because the exec claimed there are not any current broadcast dramas which might be culturally related. Rice factors out that Rhimes’ Bridgerton would go on to change into the most important Netflix sequence ever with 82 million watchers within the first month of its launch.

“It’ll be attention-grabbing when this present lastly ends if that true-ass tell-all will ever be advised,” Rice provides. “I’ve my doubts, as a result of on the finish of day, Shonda Rhimes is a really highly effective lady.” way of=rss | Inside ‘Gray’s Anatomy’s’ Many Behind-the-Scenes Scandals, From Diva Antics to Sudden Exits


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