October 19, 2021

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

10 min read


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 individual” 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 befell behind the scenes.

Lynette Rice, an editor-at-large at Leisure Weekly who lined 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 all for diving into “what the present was prefer to make and the way onerous it was to make and why it type 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 additionally 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 bought 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 attempting 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 good friend and sick of the entire mess of it,” she says. “I used to be not too long ago 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 may by no means have embarrassed him and that he was so grateful as a result of nobody had ever stood up for him that manner earlier than. In order that was a proud second for me. I don’t remorse it. And I’m simply grateful my good friend doesn’t remorse it.”

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

Ultimately a choice 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 Virtually 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 completed. “I can solely apologize so many occasions,” he’s quoted within the e book. “I can settle for solely a lot accountability. I simply hope folks within the trade can perceive that it’s a horrible misunderstanding what transpired with our present, and it was blown out of proportion.”

However an sudden sufferer from Washington’s self-implosion was Knight, who was basically outed through the leaked information of the battle. Deciding to address the situation head-on a few days after the scuffle, Knight made a statement to People: “I’d prefer to quiet any pointless rumors which may be on the market. Whereas I desire to maintain my private life non-public, I hope the truth that I’m homosexual isn’t probably 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 transferring on is the perfect determination,” 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 at all times very respectful. In any form 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 beneath 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 must be there.”

“He wished off the present, in order that they actually threw him beneath 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 entire head lined, he by no means complained as soon as. They punished him for eager to get off the present. Petty, huh?”

And whereas Rhimes provided to have Knight reprise his character in flashback episodes, he by no means accepted the invitation—at the very least 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 may 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 identify to be thought-about for an Emmy as a result of she felt the fabric that she was given in Season 4 was subpar.

Years later, Heigl is prepared to confess that she was unsuitable. “I believed I used to be doing the suitable 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 may 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 may 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 probably 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 isn’t going to be absolutely advised, as a result of folks gained’t discuss—at the very least on the file, 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 at the very least 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 probably 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, changing into a problem 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 eager to pursue different alternatives and to give attention to his racing profession.

“There have been HR points,” producer James D. Parriott tells Rice. “It wasn’t sexual in any manner. He form 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 may 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 automotive accident in “Tips on how to Save a Life,” which aired in April 2015.

However InTouch revealed a narrative a month after Dempsey’s shock departure, which was saved 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 will maintain him on the drama by way of Season 12, Dempsey was imprecise concerning the sudden change of plans. “It simply type of occurred,” he provided. “[Being written off] was one thing that was type of stunning and uh, simply naturally got here to be. I like the way in which it has all performed out.”

Rice hints that she did attempt to chase down the affair rumor, however she wasn’t capable of fairly nail it down. “If I didn’t have sufficient, I didn’t go along with it,” she explains. “You hear a number of tales about what’s occurred on that present. The one level that I do attempt to make too, is quoting any individual, they didn’t need to be named however they are saying, ‘The true Gray’s Anatomy story won’t ever most likely be advised as a result of no one needs to go on the file.’ Finally, you’re coping with private lives right here. You need to be rattling certain 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 had been attention-grabbing to Rice, she says she was most inquisitive about 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 Follow and Station 19, in addition to championing her different hit reveals Scandal and Tips on how to 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 inquisitive about 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, plainly as with most of Rhimes’ exits, there was some behind-the-scenes rigidity—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 manner for a extremely very long time.”

But it surely 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 had 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 could have sufficient?” Just a few months later, Rhimes was off to Netflix.

Sources conversant in the negotiation appeared barely bitter about Rhimes once they talked to Rice, with some going out of their solution to spotlight how her short-lived reveals Catch and Nonetheless Star-Crossed didn’t fare in addition to her different collection. “She did a number 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 folks typically query how an organization would survive with out its star expertise, saying that with Rhimes gone, ABC had the prospect to provide new expertise a chance to succeed.

One other ABC government who knew of the talks quipped that “historical past has proven it was the suitable determination [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 aren’t any latest broadcast dramas which might be culturally related. Rice factors out that Rhimes’ Bridgerton would go on to turn out to be the most important Netflix collection 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 girl.”

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