Actress Brooke Smith has said she is “surprised and disappointed” at the decision of ABC TV executives to axe her character from hit show Grey’s Anatomy.

She has played Dr Erica Hahn since 2006.

Her character recently started a relationship with another female doctor. She will make her last appearance on the show this week.

Network executives denied the decision to drop the character had anything to do with the lesbian plotline.

“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,” said producer Shonda Rhimes.

Ms Smith told Entertainment Weekly:

“I was very excited when they told me that Erica and Callie were going to have this relationship.

“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,” she said.

“And so I was surprised and disappointed when they just suddenly told me that they couldn’t write for my character any more.”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a media monitoring group, said:

“Because there are so few lesbian characters on network television, we hope that ABC and Grey’s Anatomy will commit to further developing Callie’s character and her relationships, and continue providing this important representation on one of TV’s most-watched shows.”

Grey’s was the centre of controversy in 2006 when a lead actor, TR Knight, came out of the closet.

It was revealed that he had been the subject of homophobic taunts from co-star Isaiah Washington.

He called Knight a faggot during an on-set confrontation in October 2006, but at the Golden Globes in January 2007 he denied the incident had occurred.

After the ceremony, where the show won best drama, he said to journalists, “No, I did not call TR a faggot. Never happened, never happened.”

GLAAD then demanded that Washington apologise for using the word again when denying he used it in the first place.

The actor then signalled his desire to put the controversy behind him by co-operating with GLAAD.

He left the show in June 2007.