Isaiah Washington in Grey’s Anatomy.

America’s gay media watchdog group GLAAD has welcomed the surprise return of actor Isaiah Washington, who was fired for using an anti-gay slur, to the TV drama Grey’s Anatomy.

In 2006, Washington – who played Dr. Preston Burke – referred to then closeted co-star T.R. Knight as a ‘faggot’ in an on-set altercation with Patrick Dempsey, another of the show’s stars.

Washington went on to make matters worse by using the word again while defending himself in front of the international media at the Golden Globe Awards.

The incident and resulting media furore effectively outed Knight and led to Washington being dropped from the show.

Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes has now told the Hollywood Reporter that Washington will reprise his role for one episode.

The episode will see long-time Grey’s star, Sandra Oh – who plays Washington’s character’s former girlfriend Cristina Yang – leave the series.

“It’s important to me that Cristina’s journey unfolds exactly as it should,” said Rhimes. “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.”

Washington, who said he lost everything after he was fired, apologised for using the anti-gay slur and went on to publicly support the campaign for same-sex marriage in the US.

“His PSA and his statements promoting marriage equality in recent years have sent a strong message of support for LGBT people,” GLAAD commented in a statement about the news. “We look forward to seeing him return to one of our favourite shows.”

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