Isaiah Washington’s Dr. Preston Burke packed his bags on the season finale of “Grey's Anatomy” but that doesn’t mean the actor is being dumped by the show, his publicist said Friday.
“We fully expect to be back in the fall,” spokesman Howard Bragman said. “The deal’s not done but we have no reason to believe he won’t be putting on the scrubs.”
A furor over Washington’s use of an anti-gay slur had provoked speculation that his job might be in jeopardy. He said the word backstage at the Golden Globe Awards in January while denying he’d used it previously against castmate T.R. Knight.
Thursday’s finale seemed to open the door for the departure of Washington’s character. Burke was on the verge of marrying Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), but her doubts at first delayed and then derailed their splashy wedding.
“I’m up there waiting for you to come down the aisle and I know you don’t want to come,” Burke told a shocked Cristina. “If I loved you, I wouldn’t be up there waiting for you. I would be letting you go.”
Then he did just that. Later, Cristina found that Burke had cleared his favorite possessions out of their apartment.
ABC declined comment Friday on Washington’s status.
But a source close to the production, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to comment publicly, said the finale doesn’t indicate that Washington is a goner from “Grey’s.”
“A lot of character story lines were left in question. It’s a cliffhanger finale,” the source said. “T.R’s character looks like he could be going. ... It doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
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Knight’s character, George O’Malley, was the only intern to fail the end-of-year exam and he was seen in the finale cleaning out his locker after deciding against repeating his intern stint.
Washington will spend the summer working, his publicist said, not worrying about the show. The actor leaves next week to continue his charity work in Sierra Leone, which a DNA test showed to be his ancestral home.
Washington, who started a nonprofit foundation last year to improve the lives of people in the West African nation, plans to deliver mosquito netting and check on a school he helped found.
He’ll also spend part of his summer break working on an independent film, “The Least of These,” Bragman said. Washington expects to be back at work on “Grey’s Anatomy” when production resumes in August, he said.
Washington filmed a public service announcement on behalf of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network after the flap. The spot is in post-production, a GLAAD spokesman said Friday.