This week's cover: 'Grey's Anatomy' star T.R. Knight reveals why he left the hit show

1058-ew-cover_l In the spirit of Comic-Con, I’m going to geek out here for a moment: Holy frak, it’s my very first Entertainment Weekly cover story!!! Now that I got that out of my system, I present you with this exclusive excerpt…

Fans were shocked when T.R. Knight made the surprising decision to leave Grey’s Anatomy, the hit medical drama that launched him to fame. This week, in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor reveals what led him to his decision, and he also candidly discusses “Isaiahgate,” coming out of the closet, and leaving his friends at Seattle Grace.

This fall, Knight was surprised to see his character George O’Malley all but vanish from the show — for the first nine episodes of season 5, he appeared on screen a total of only 48 minutes, compared to 114 for Sandra Oh’s Christina. Still, due to what he calls a gradual “breakdown of communication” between himself and exec producer Shonda Rhimes, the actor chose not to ask his boss what was going on with his character. Instead, he simply asked to leave. “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George],” he explains. “And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that.”

Though he was unknown when Grey’s premiered, Knight soon emerged as one of the breakout stars (and even earned a supporting actor Emmy nod in 2007), but it was what came to be known as “Isaiahgate” that would catapult him to household-name status. After Isaiah Washington referred to Knight as a “f—-t” during an on-set argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey, the tabloids caught wind of it, Knight came out in the press, and Washington was fired. While Knight doesn’t specifically fault Rhimes for how the situation was handled behind the scenes, he says the exec producer was among those who tried to discourage him from coming out: “I think she was concerned about having my statement come out so close to the [initial] event.” Rhimes denies this: “I said, ‘If you want to come out, that’s awesome. We’ll totally support that.’ And then he went away, thought about it, and came back and said, ‘I’m going to make this statement.’ I remember saying to [fellow executive producer] Betsy Beers, ‘This is our proudest day here. T.R. got to come out, and I got to say to him that it wouldn’t affect his character’ — because he was concerned that he was going to come out and George would suddenly be gay. I was like, ‘We are not going to do that.’ The idea that a gay actor can’t play a straight man is insulting.”

Knight returned to work on season 4, but the actor struggled with the story line in which George cheated on his wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) with Izzie (Katherine Heigl). And once George went MIA from the beginning of season 5, the star came to the conclusion that his character had “expired.”Today, Knight is at peace with his choice to leave: “There just comes a time when it’s so clear that moving on is the best decision,” he says. But at first, his castmate and friend Heigl tried to talk him out of it. “I didn’t think it was the right decision,” she says. “I felt like some of the problems could be worked through. But by the time it came to fruition, I was [glad] for him because he was ready to go.”

Knight knows he’s taking a risk walking away from his top 10 show and $14 million contract. “From an outsider’s perspective, I get the [impression that] ‘He’s just a spoiled actor…he doesn’t know how good he has it,'” he says. “There are a lot of people who would like to be in my position. But in the end, I need to be fulfilled in my work.”

For more on T.R. Knight — including how he felt when George was back-burnered, what he really thought of the “Gizzie” story line, and where you can see him next– plus what’s in store for the other docs on Grey’s Anatomy, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday July 24.

More Grey’s scoop:
Will Lexie eventually replace Mer?!
Look who’s returning this season

Comments (291 total) Add your comment
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  • Jenna

    Congratulations on your first cover story Mike!! Don’t get all Hollywood on us and forget to give us scoop!

  • Steph

    Can’t wait to see him on Broadway! Good luck, T.R.!

  • Michelle

    First off, congrats, Mike, on your first cover story. It’s well deserved, especially for putting up with us Ausholes! Second, you go, T.R! Shonda did her very best to run poor George into the ground. I’m impressed he put up with her for all as long as he did. Get out while the getting is good, my friend!

  • EMB

    Congrats on your first EW cover. As a writer, I know how exciting that can be. Between knowing you wrote it and seeing that it’s about TR, I’m actually excited to read about Grey’s again. And that cover photo looks great. TR is fabulous and I wish him all the best as he moves on from Grey’s. Hope to see him on Broadway.

  • Dominique

    Congrats on your very first coverstory Mike!
    The interview is great, and I wish TR all the best.

  • VJW

    Sounds like GA is full of a bunch of divas and spoiled brats – starting from the top. I love the show, but the behind-the-scenes drama is distasteful.

  • Adam

    I agree congrats on this huge story. Seeing why he left, from his words, will be some scoop.

  • Didi

    I love TR so much. I agree. Shonda made George vanish and treated the character like crap over the years. I love Gizzie though. The affair was out of character, but the love story was beautiful in itself. They are still my favorite character, but Shonda destroyed them too.
    She destroyed their friendship and then she destroyed absolutely every friendship George ever had. They cut him out of the fab 5 completely, and yes she stood by Isiah not him when Isiah attacked him.
    So go TR for telling the truth about Shonda.
    I always knew she was to blame for us losing our George.
    TR looks amazing here.

  • Puhleaze

    TR tends to have trouble with the truth.

  • Tarc

    As we’ve seen in interview after interview, Rimes isn’t good to her word, so I can understand TR’s reluctance to extend his time after being marginalized so seriously. The numbers quote above for screen time are even exaggerated – (the amazing) Sandra’s minutes are heavy acting, TR’s 48 minutes were siting and istening, delivering a coffee, etc. It’s really no wonder that he wanted out, and it looks like it was a great decision since he’s already got a line of projects confirmed. Go TR!

  • Ariel

    A la David Caruso – Long live the actors that are too good for the show that created their fame. TR, welcome to the B-list – can Katherine (Izzie) be next? Let’s just hope.

  • Stacey

    I am sure Grey’s wasn’t the best of working enviornments at times. And while I agree, “George” disappeared last season. But given that George was a big part of the show prior to that. One soft year in terms of storyline pales to all the time he did work in prior seasons. So I am not sure I see the sour grapes. I am sure it had more to do with SRimes. But still, I am not sure I buy all his rationale.

  • M

    Oh please, Ariel. TR isn’t leaving because he thinks he’s too good for Grey’s. He’s leaving because he was MISERABLE and all the money in the world wasn’t enough to get him to stay.

  • TJ

    Who cares?????? Who is TR Knight?

  • Vetinari

    In 10 years he’ll regret it big time.

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