LESBIAN LOVE STORY LEADS TO GREY'S ANATOMY FIRING
Actress Brooke Smith has suddenly been given the chop from popular TV medical drama series Grey's Anatomy - after her character has become embroiled in a lesbian love affair.
The star's firing puts an end to the show's first major lesbian storyline.
Smith plays cardiac doctor Erica Hahn, who is romantically involved with Sara Ramirez's character Dr Calliope 'Callie' Torres.
The actress was stunned to learn their on-screen relationship would come to an abrupt end after learning of the producers' decision.
"I was very excited when they told me that Erica and Callie were going to have this relationship," 41-year-old Smith tells American magazine Entertainment Weekly. "And I really hoped we were going to show what happens when two women fall in love and that they were going to treat it like any heterosexual couple on TV.
"And so I was surprised and disappointed when they just suddenly told me that they couldn't write for my character anymore."
Nevertheless, series creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes is adamant the decision to axe Smith's character is unrelated to the doctor's sexual orientation.
Rhimes said: "Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian. Clearly it's not an issue as we have a lesbian character on the show - Calliope Torres. Sara Ramirez is an incredible comedic and dramatic actress and we wanted to be able to play up her magic.
"Unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run. The impact of the Callie/Erica relationship will be felt and played out in a story for Callie. I believe it belittles the relationship to simply replace Erica with 'another lesbian'."
Smith joined the cast last season as the outspoken and brash Dr. Hahn, quickly becoming a fan favourite.
Her final appearance is due to air in the U.S. later this week - just seven days after her character, who recently realised she was gay, made a weepy declaration that she was a lesbian after her bond with Callie Torres quickly moved into relationship territory.
According to series insiders some of the gay-themed storylines are being downplayed and even erased from the show's upcoming scripts.
That goes for the series' latest newcomer, actress Melissa George who previously played Lauren Reed on TV series Alias, who joins the show this month in the States.
Melissa came on to the show as a bisexual character and love interest for Callie but a reliable insider said: "They changed the script and now she isn't. She starts off flirting with Callie but it never goes anywhere."
Melissa plays the best friend of Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, and a new intern at Seattle Grace.