Anatomy of a cri­sis

Rifts and ru­mours have rocked Seat­tle Grace, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

GREY’S Anatomy is a mon­ster hit and a rat­ings suc­cess in more than 60 coun­tries. And there’s no dis­put­ing the show’s power to turn rel­a­tive un­knowns into ex­traor­di­nar­ily well­paid house­hold names.

Be­fore Grey’s burst on to the scene in 2005, who’d heard of Ellen Pom­peo, Katherine Heigl, Justin Cham­bers and Kate Walsh?

Four years later the show seems bat­tle-weary, af­flicted by a se­quence of off-screen dra­mas.

So why has there been so much un­rest on a show that guar­an­tees its pro­duc­tion team and cast so much wealth?

An ex­pe­ri­enced TV pro­ducer sus­pects creative fa­tigue is catch­ing up with the cast and its writ­ers. He be­lieves suc­cess might have gone to the heads of ac­tors who, be­fore Grey’s, were strug­gling on the au­di­tion cir­cuit.

‘‘Every­one who gets a break in this busi­ness reck­ons they won’t be changed by money or fame,’’ the pro­ducer says.

‘‘I laugh in their face when they say it. They all change. And it takes all of about five min­utes for most of them to for­get how lucky they are.’’

The trou­ble on Grey’s started two years ago, when Isa­iah Wash­ing­ton was in­volved in an on-set al­ter­ca­tion with Pa­trick Dempsey, who plays Derek ‘‘McDreamy’’ Shep­herd.

When Dempsey ar­rived on set af­ter a meet­ing with a script su­per­vi­sor, Wash­ing­ton blew a fuse.

He al­legedly grabbed Dempsey by the throat and in the en­su­ing ar­gu­ment was said to have ut­tered an anti-gay slur about their cast­mate T.R. Knight.

Wash­ing­ton stren­u­ously de­nied the al­le­ga­tions and Grey’s pro­duc­ers told the Guide there was lit­tle sub­stance to the fra­cas.

But Knight said in a state­ment: ‘‘I guess there have been a few ques­tions about my sex­u­al­ity. While I pre­fer to keep my per­sonal life pri­vate, I hope the fact I’m gay isn’t the most in­ter­est­ing part of me.’’

In an in­ter­view with the Guide, Dempsey said he was frus­trated by the scan­dal.

He con­sid­ered the demise of Wash­ing­ton a ‘‘tragic mo­ment for every­one’’.

‘‘I think the char­ac­ter (played by Wash­ing­ton) was phe­nom­e­nal. It was a great char­ac­ter we’ve lost. And the other stuff? It’s much bet­ter (Wash­ing­ton’s exit) in the long run, I think. A lot of lessons had to be learned by every­one and tragic.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately, we’re a fam­ily here. We’re go­ing to have good days, we’re go­ing to have bad days.’’

In the end, no amount of spin could save Wash­ing­ton. By mid2007 he was gone, his con­tract not re­newed.

Heigl has also been at the cen­tre of tur­moil. She main­tains she’s put heart and soul into her por­trayal of

it was the psy­cho­log­i­cally frac­tured Izzie Stevens and she up­set her em­ployer when she went pub­lic with de­tails of a salary dis­pute.

Her frus­tra­tion stemmed from feel­ing she wasn’t val­ued as highly as some of her co-stars.

Pom­peo had ne­go­ti­ated a rise boost­ing her pay to $256,000 an episode when most of the cast were be­lieved to be on con­sid­er­ably less.

Heigl’s bosses hit back, in­sist­ing they’d of­fered her a sig­nif­i­cant rise. ‘‘For­tu­nately, we have a long-term con­tract to en­sure she’ll be with the show for sev­eral years to come,’’ the net­work said.

Heigl is at the cen­tre of an­other con­tro­versy, with re­ports she and Knight are quit­ting their roles.

Aussie ac­tor Melissa Ge­orge, who makes her on-screen de­but next month, has al­ready an­nounced she’s not re­new­ing her con­tract.

Grey’s cre­ator Shonda Rhimes has tried to quash spec­u­la­tion Heigl and Knight are on the way out, de­spite their co-star James Pick­ens Jr telling mag­a­zine US Weekly: ‘‘Yes, she (Heigl) is (leav­ing). Wher­ever Katherine goes, I wish her noth­ing but the best. (Knight is) go­ing too. He just wanted to pur­sue other ca­reer paths.’’

Rhimes re­sponded in Peo­ple mag­a­zine, say­ing: ‘‘That was a very in­ter­est­ing ru­mour. And it’s not true. That was ab­so­lutely taken out of con­text.’’

PICK­ENS claims he was mis­un­der­stood in the in­ter­view and made a state­ment say­ing he was clue­less about Heigl and Knight’s plans.

If Heigl’s mind is on a fu­ture without Grey’s, it could have some­thing to do with her work­load.

On a visit to the set, the Guide ran into Heigl the morn­ing af­ter a 16-hour work­ing day.

She was free of make-up, her hair was in an un­tidy pony­tail and she had a look of bleary-eyed ex­haus­tion.

‘‘I’m to­tally com­plain­ing. I’m tired,’’ Heigl said with a be­nign smile.

‘‘Fri­day nights, we end up work­ing un­til two or three in the morn­ing, then we sleep as much as we can Satur­day.

‘‘Then you might have a photo shoot or a work event to go to Sun­day.

‘‘Any tiny bit of time you might have in there to see fam­ily or friends, you’re not go­ing to be good com­pany be­cause you’re tired and bit­ter, so I stay home and watch TV.’’

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