Workplace altercations, inflated egos, professional jealousy, dramatic firings. All of these HR nightmares have played out at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital…and on the set of Grey’s Anatomy, apparently. Here’s all the backstage drama you could ever want, which is honestly enough to send even the most diehard Shondaland fan into shock.
In an alleged physical altercation with Patrick Dempsey on set in 2006, Isaiah Washington reportedly said, "I’m not your little f----t like T.R," referring to co-star T.R. Knight—who was not publicly out as gay at the time.
Isaiah only made matters worse by using the slur backstage at the 2007 Golden Globes after Grey’s won for Best Drama TV Series, telling reporters, "No, I did not call T.R. a f----t. Never happened." He later offered up an apology (saying, "I apologize to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance"), but found himself out of a job. Dr. Preston Burke wasn’t seen again for nearly seven seasons.
When Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes announced plans for a spin-off (AKA Private Practice) for Kate Walsh’s Dr. Addison Montgomery, the green-eyed monster reportedly appeared on the set of Grey’s. "The rest of the cast seemed instantly resentful of [Walsh]," a source told Star. "They each thought they’d be the one chosen to get their own show, and now they’re giving Kate the cold shoulder. [Ellen Pompeo] seemed particularly peeved because she felt that, as the star, she should have been consulted."
In a very shady move, Katherine Heigl pulled her name from Emmy contention in June 2008 after winning an Emmy for her role as Dr. Izzie Stevens the season before. Even shadier? Her statement to the Los Angeles Times: "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination, and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention."
In 2009, Heigl complained about the production’s long hours on The Late Show With David Letterman: "Our first day back was Wednesday, and it was—I’m going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them—a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean." (Apparently, that day was so long because producers were trying to accommodate her media tour for The Ugly Truth.)
Next, on the dramatic finale of Heiglgate: After taking a leave of absence to film Life as We Know It, Katherine and Shonda hammered out an end to her contract. Izzie’s abrupt departure in Season 6 was presumably the last we’ll ever see of her character, barring any sort of Camp David-worthy peace accord between her and Shonda Rhimes.
The season before Katherine left, her best friend T.R. did as well. Talking to Entertainment Weekly, the actor said he was frustrated by his lack of screen time (which was less than half of Sandra Oh’s in the first nine episodes of Season 5, for example) and his "breakdown of communication" with Shonda Rhimes. "My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]," he said. "And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that."
Derek’s sojourn to Washington D.C. in Season 11 wasn’t so much a creative decision for the storyline as it was a disciplinary action toward Patrick Dempsey. "Patrick has been acting like a diva and has clashed with Shonda," a Page Six source reported at the time. "She suspended him for a while, and the word on set is that he isn’t coming back full time."
Patrick’s sudden departure from Grey’s Anatomy was at the least a mutual decision and at the most a low-key firing. Either way, fans were shocked when Derek Shepherd went from alive-and-thriving to dead-as-a-doornail in the span of just one episode. (And a People source said there "there was no love lost" between him and some of the other veteran cast members.)
In 2008, just a year after she became a series regular, Brooke Smith was abruptly given her walking papers. In fact, Dr. Erica Hahn didn’t even get written out of the show: She just walked to the hospital parking lot and never came back. Entertainment Weekly cited a source on set who said the ABC executives "had issues" with Erica and her "explicit" (read: same-sex) relationship with Callie, and Brooke told the magazine she thought Shonda’s "hands were tied."
Eric Dane ditched his role as Dr. Mark Sloan in 2012, and when he got his next starring TV gig, he told French news outlet Programme TV he was "just a piece of meat" on Grey’s.
After Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood recording hit the press, Shonda tweeted, "Men, stop with 'we have wives, daughters' as reason not to condone [Trump’s] actions. You don't condone his acts [because] you know right from wrong." Then Eric tweeted, "How ‘bout this. F--k @realDonaldTrump, and I could give no [f--ks] about @shondarhimes opinion." (Her response: "Um?")
Sara Ramirez seems to be on fine terms with Shonda, which is more than can be said for some of the other alums on this list. But she still left the show at the end of Season 12 before her character could be written out—and she didn’t even get a chance to talk to Jessica Capshaw, the Arizona to her Callie.
Shonda Rhimes wasn’t always ABC’s golden child. Network brass vehemently objected to a now-deleted Season 1 scene in which Cristina and Alex make a bet to see who could deliver bad news to patients fastest. "I think the term that was used to describe me to my face was, 'If you think you’re funny, you’re sick,'" Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was stunned."
(She also said she was berated by ABC Entertainment Group President Steve McPherson, who was later outed for sexual harassment. "He said really horrible things to me," she said. "I literally started keeping a list of how many times he said a certain swear word to me. After that, I was like, 'Okay, we’re dead.'"
"For me, Patrick leaving the show was a defining moment, deal-wise," Ellen Pompeo told The Hollywood Reporter in a barnburner of an interview earlier this year. "They could always use him as leverage against me—'We don’t need you; we have Patrick'—which they did for years… I could have walked away, so why didn’t I?...You feel conflicted but then you figure, 'I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.'"
"There were many times where I reached out [to Patrick Dempsey] about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that," Ellen told The Hollywood Reporter. (How very un-McDreamy.) Thanks to her determination, though, she just inked a $20-million-a-year contract, making her the highest-paid actress on a primetime TV drama.
After Patrick left the show, Ellen tried spending some time "decompressing" in Sicily but was barraged by calls and messages about potential new Grey’s love interests. "I was like, 'Are you people f--king nuts? Why do you feel that you have to replace this person?'" she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there."
Patrick Dempsey’s heir apparent was Martin Henderson—and his character Dr. Nathan Riggs entered the scene in Season 12, the season after Derek’s death. Nathan was recently written out of the show, and now we know why thanks to Ellen Pompeo: "We brought in Martin Henderson, but they didn't love the storyline, so that ended."
"I don’t think it’s a secret that we had a real problem at Grey’s for a long time," she said. "On the outside, we were a massive success, but there was all of this tumult on the inside: It was a lot of rivalry, a lot of competition. It starts with actors behaving badly, and then producers enabling them to behave badly. And, by the way, I'm guilty of it, too. I saw squeaky wheels getting all the f--king grease, so I was like, 'Okay, that's how you do it,' and I behaved badly as well. I mimicked what I saw."