Isaiah Washington Lands a New Role
By Bill Keith
At Monday's Television Critics' Association conference in Beverly Hills, newly appointed NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman excitedly announced that he had hired controversial television star Isaiah Washington to appear in at least five episodes of the network's new fall drama remake, Bionic Woman, set to premiere in September.
"I started talking to Isaiah before he was available about developing something. And when he told me he was available, I was like, 'You are? Wait.
I don't understand. You're a huge star on a television show.' I didn't quite understand what went on there."
Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy earlier this year after reports of him using a homophobic slur on set leaked out. He subsequently used the same slur at a press conference following the Golden Globes.
When asked whether the network was concerned about working with Washington, Silverman offered only, "He's a wonderful actor and a great performer and we think inside the Bionic Woman, the character that's been created for him is a really strong one that he'll do a great job with. Whatever support we can give to the Bionic Woman as possible. I think he is a wonderful actor."
In a bit of a switch, at today's official press conference for Bionic Woman, the show's executive producer, Jason Smilovic, refuted that the character was created for Washington at all, clarifying that a smaller role already in place had been expanded to accommodate Washington when Silverman presented him as an option for casting. When pressed as to whether he was ignoring the concerns of an audience that could potentially boycott the show, Smilovic said, "Absolutely not. We embrace the gay community and hope they watch the show. But we believe in second chances, and we aren't about making assignations or judgments on what happened [on Grey's Anatomy]. This is about making good TV. We've found that the best way to handle a situation like this is not to cast people out or excommunicate them, but to let them make amends."
Notably absent from the panel was Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame, who was originally scheduled to appear. When asked why she wasn't present, Smilovic stated "Katee is on the show." When asked if her contract was in place however, Smilovic simply restated, "Katee will be on the show, and that's all I want to say on that." As to whether or not there is any connection between Washington's hiring and the flux state of Sackhoff's contract, Smilovic simply stated, "Absolutely not."
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