A new tell-all book about the untold history of “Grey’s Anatomy” informs readers that Isaiah Washington could have been Meredith Grey’s, a.k.a Ellen Pompeo’s, McDreamy. But according to Washington, Ellen Pompeo had reservations.
According to a new excerpt from the book How To Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, Isaiah Washington explained that he’d been up for the role of Meredith Grey’s love interest, but due to Ellen Pompeo’s personal relationship with her boyfriend at the time, she wanted Patrick Dempsey instead.
“I didn’t audition for Burke, I auditioned for McDreamy,” said Washington, according to “How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy” by Lynette Rice, Entertainment Weekly’s editor at large. He said that creator Shonda Rhimes’ original vision for the character was “a brain surgeon who looked like Dr. Ben Carson.”
But Washington ultimately got the role of Dr. Preston Burke because, according to him, Pompeo didn’t want him to play Derek Shepherd.
“There’s a rumor out there or something that Ellen didn’t want me to be her love interest because she had a Black boyfriend. The context is that she’s not into white men,” Washington said, according to the book. “I guess she implied that her boyfriend may have had a problem with her doing love scenes with me, so she felt uncomfortable.”
Pompeo was dating music producer Chris Ivery at the time, who is black. The couple went on to marry in 2007.
Back in 2013, Pompeo first mentioned that the idea of Washington playing her love interest “was too close to home” in an interview with the New York Post.
“You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend,’ she said at the time. “Shonda really wanted to put a black man in the mix. I didn’t think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn’t want him. It was too close to home.”
While that happened with Washington, Ellen Pompeo also let out on a fight she had with Denzel Washington on the set during the Wednesday, September 29, episode of her “Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo” podcast.
The Catch Me If You Can star told Dempsey that she considered leaving the long-running series after his exit in 2015, but she stayed, in part, because Denzel came in to direct an episode.
“Denzel’s a movie star, he doesn’t know s–t about directing TV. But [producer and costar] Debbie Allen was like, ‘What can I do to keep Ellen interested? What can I do to keep Ellen here?’” Pompeo shared. And Debbie was like, ‘No, no, no, you gotta stick around. I’m gonna bring in a surprise for you,’ and she would never tell me who it was but she knew I was a huge fan.”
The Old School actress subsequently got into a “fight” with Denzel when she went off script. “Working with Denzel was amazing. He went nuts on me,” she revealed, noting that she still “love[s] the guy.”