Isaiah Washington set for Grey's Anatomy return

Isaiah Washington Isaiah Washington starred in the first three series of Grey's Anatomy

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Actor Isaiah Washington is to return to US medical drama Grey's Anatomy, seven years after he was fired from the show.

The 50-year-old, who played heart surgeon Preston Burke during the first three seasons, was axed after he used a homophobic slur during an on-set altercation.

Washington will make a guest appearance to coincide with the departure of series regular Sandra Oh, his former on-screen love interest.

It will be screened in the US in May.

Washington was last seen on the series leaving Oh's character, Cristina Yang, at the altar on their wedding day.

Series creator Shonda Rhimes said his return was integral to Yang's storyline.

"It's important to me that Cristina's journey unfolds exactly as it should," she said.

"Burke is vital to that journey - he gives her story that full-circle moment we need to properly say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Yang."

Sandra Oh in Grey's Anatomy Sandra Oh, who has appeared in all 10 seasons of the medical drama, announced she would be leaving last August

Washington was one of the original stars of Grey's Anatomy, but his contract was not renewed after he used the anti-gay slur during an argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey.

Soon after, fellow cast member TR Knight revealed he was gay and said he was offended by what the actor had said.

Washington then further angered network bosses by repeating the slur backstage at the Golden Globes while denying he had said it.

The actor later apologised for his comments, saying it was "unacceptable in any context or circumstance". He received counselling and met with gay rights groups to discuss ways to address homophobia.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has praised Washington's return to the series, telling The Hollywood Reporter: "His PSA (public service announcement) and his statements promoting marriage equality in recent years have sent a strong message of support for LGBT people."

"We look forward to seeing him return to one of our favourite shows, as well as in Patrik-Ian Polk's moving film Blackbird about a young man coming out in a small Southern town."

After his controversial exit from Grey's Anatomy, Washington struggled to find continuous work and mainly landed bit parts in television shows including Law & Order: LA and the re-make of Bionic Woman which was cancelled mid-way through its first series.

He will next appear in US post-apocalyptic drama The 100 - his first regular series role since Grey's Anatomy.

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