NBC Gives 'Second Chance' to Isaiah Washington
"We believe in second chances," said David Eick, executive producer NBC's upcoming Bionic Woman, which has hired Washington for five episodes.
Speaking to reporters at the annual Television Critics Association meeting in Beverly Hills, Eick rejected the suggestion that hiring Washington was an affront to gays and lesbians. The actor had been let go from ABC's Grey's after a firestorm over his use of a gay slur.
"We embrace the gay community," said Eick, "and hope they will watch."
Eick adds: "I guess that I still abide by the credo that no publicity is bad publicity and for every person that doesn't watch the show because they're sensitive to the controversy I figure that we'll get two who will because they're curious. I just think that's sort of how it evens out in life. Eventually there will be a new scandal and no one will be thinking of this."
NBC co-chair Mark Graboff said the network took into consideration Washington's experience at ABC.
"He has learned his lesson about the way he acts around his fellow actors, and in public," Graboff tells PEOPLE. "When you're on a television show – especially a high profile show – you have to be very careful about what you say both privately and publicly. So I think that we actually get the benefit of that experience with him coming onto our show. He deserves a second chance.
While details of Washington's show character remain a mystery, NBC-Universal co-chair Ben Silverman tells PEOPLE that the Bionic Woman role may be a steppingstone for the actor, who also signed a development deal with the studio for the 2008-2009 season.
"I think he could be an action star," says Silverman. "And there aren't any African-American action stars on television. So I thought [we'd] give him a forum to do his thing."
Reporting by PAMELA WARRICK, SCOTT HUVER and MARK DAGOSTINO