The Republic of T.

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What’s Up With Isaiah?

I haven’t said much about the Isaiah Washington debacle at Grey’s Anatomy, which ended with his being fired. To be honest, I’ve never watched the show. (Being married to a doctor, I don’t watch many medical shows — at least not while he’s awake — because they either remind him too much of work or drive him crazy with the details they get wrong.) But I’ve followed the controversy over his outburst, his rehab, his firing, and the petition to get him rehired.

I didn’t feel the need to say anything until I read this.

Washington, who has traveled to various parts of Africa multiple times for charity work, explained his passion for the continent. “Once you get awareness of who you are and how you’re here, then I believe there’s a responsibility that you have,” he said. “And seeing that I can afford to take part in that, I have to be responsible.”

Asked if there were any misconceptions about him, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe for 50 years and the history of media and television I represent something that’s supposed to not exist. … This happened to Malcolm X, this happened to Paul Robeson – this misconception can happen to any man of power that loves himself and wants to spread that love and that humanity throughout the world.”

Now, I’m not knocking his charity work. In fact, he deserves to praised for it. But if he’s drawing a connection between that and his termination from Grey’s Anatomy (and identifying himself with Malcolm X and Paul Robeson in the process), and suggesting that one has something to do with the other, he may have lost his mind or gone into deep denial.

It’s just as likely that he was fired because he has a problem with his temper, and that this outburst was just the first one to make the news in a big way.

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Back in October, TMZ reported a previous outburst on the set of Soul Food.

Now TMZ has learned of two other incidents that make Washington sound like “Dr. McNightmare.” In the year 2000, Washington was shooting the TV show “Soul Food” for Showtime in Toronto. Washington and an actress, who played his wife, were shooting a scene in which Isaiah was supposed to give the woman a superficial kiss. We’re told to the horror of everyone, Washington grabbed the woman and planted a “forceful, aggressive kiss.”

The actress became irate, which then infuriated Washington who began screaming at her. At that point the director stepped in to correct Washington, and the actor went off on him. Executive Producer Tracey Edmonds then took over and Washington went off on her.

In 1997 there was yet another incident on the set of the TV show “High Incident.” Washington was a guest star on the show, but we’re told the gig ended abruptly after the actor had a physical altercation with a crew member. We’re told it was serious enough that police were called.

The incident on “High Incident” went down like this according to the crew member involved.

Bryan Birge was far from surprised when news of an on-set spat between Washington and costar Patrick Dempsey was leaked to the press–because he’s been a past victim of the actor’s rage.

Birge was so shaken by his 1996 fight with Washington on the set of police drama High Incident, he filed a restraining order against the actor.

Birge says his troubles with Washington started when he tried to make sure the actor’s wardrobe was always the same for successive scenes in the film, and he blew up when the costumer told him to take a magazine out of his pocket.

Speaking exclusively to The National Enquirer, Birge recalls, “He grabbed me by my throat, choking me. Then he picked me up and threw me over a couch.”



When Washington refused to take Birge’s restraining order against him seriously, the costumer called the police: “They came down, handcuffed him and took him off in a squad car.”

And again, those are just the ones we’ve heard about. It’s likely there are others we haven’t heard about because they didn’t rise to the level of getting media attention. So it’s just as likely that Washington was fired because his behavior, specifically his anger management issues, make him too much of a liability.

Starring on one of TV’s hottest series is an actor’s dream, and Isaiah Washington fought hard to keep his role as Dr. Preston Burke on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

But after twice using an anti-gay slur, Washington was doomed to lose the biggest role of his career because of timing, a track record of volatile behaviour and pressure within the industry.

While series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes wept when she got on the phone last Thursday to tell Washington he was out, the decision was a coolly calculated move by Rhimes’ bosses at the network and ABC Television Studios.

His “pattern of behaviour” represented a potential liability that was too much risk for the Walt Disney Co.-owned companies, a source close to the production said. The source was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

It’s a patter of behavior that goes back to his youth, according to Washington’s own admission, when he “popped [his] mouth off to the wrong person and got shot” at 16.

Sorry, Isaiah. You are indeed to be praised for your charity work. But I doubt that’s why you were fired, and I doubt it has anything to do with your race either.

I’ve worked on various jobs and I’ve worked in places where I had co-workers who were hot-headed, explosive, and “screamers.” And let me tell you, they were liabilities because almost nobody wanted to work with them, and as a result they were responsible for a lot of turnover. Especially when they were in management, and harder to get rid of. Their presence was responsible for a lot of good, non-disruptive workers seeking employment elsewhere because no one (no one healthy, anyway) wants towork with an asshole.

There’s a whole book about dealing with such people in the workplace, called The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. The author of the book describes the importance of a “No Asshole Rule” to any business enterprise.

Remember that if you want to enforce the no-asshole rule in your organization, you’ll get more bang for your buck by eliminating those folks who bring people down. Bear in mind that negative interactions have five times the effect on mood as positive interactions — it takes a lot of good people to make up for the damage done by just a few demeaning jerks. If you want a civilized workplace, take some inspiration from the CEO who made up the equivalent of 25 “asshole wanted” posters and then purged those assholes from the company. So the first things that you need to do are screen out, reform and expel all the assholes in your workplace. It will then become easier to focus on helping people become warmer and more supportive.

So, Isaiah, you’re firing was probably not due to racism or to a “gay mafia.” It’s more likely that it was just good business.

One Comment

  1. After being fired by the show, Washington seemed peeved that even though he made those “don’t hate the gays” PSAs, he still got canned. Which makes one wonder whether his contrition was whole-hearted. I say, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer…ah, hell. He’s just an asshole.

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