Isaiah Washington

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Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington.JPG
Washington after a speech at a Student National Medical Association conference, 2008
BornIsaiah Washington IV
(1963-08-03) August 3, 1963 (age 50)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Years active1991—present
Spouse(s)Jenisa Garland (1996–present)
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Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington.JPG
Washington after a speech at a Student National Medical Association conference, 2008
BornIsaiah Washington IV
(1963-08-03) August 3, 1963 (age 50)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Years active1991—present
Spouse(s)Jenisa Garland (1996–present)

Isaiah Washington IV (born August 3, 1963) is an American actor. A veteran of several Spike Lee films, Washington is best known for his role as Dr. Preston Burke on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy from 2005 until 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Washington was born in Houston, Texas, where his parents were residents in the Houston Heights community. His parents moved to Missouri City, Texas around 1980, where he was one of the first graduates from Willowridge High School, Houston, in 1981. Washington revealed in an interview with Star Jones that his father, after whom he was named, was murdered when he was 13 years old. Washington went on to serve in the United States Air Force and attended Howard University. Washington married Jenisa Marie Garland on February 14, 1996. The couple have three children (Isaiah Akin-Olu, Tyme Baraka, and Iman Sele).


Grey's Anatomy[edit]

In 2005, Washington originated the role of gifted cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Preston Burke on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. His portrayal earned him two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award. He was paired onscreen with Sandra Oh, who plays intern Dr. Cristina Yang. Washington had originally auditioned for the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd, which ultimately went to Patrick Dempsey. Burke had originally been described as a nebbishy, stout forty-something man. For his portrayal of Dr. Burke, Isaiah was honored by TV Guide as one of "TV's Sexiest Men" in June 2006, and was named one of TV's sexiest doctors in June 2008 on TV Guide's television channel. Prior to the TV Guide honor, Isaiah was named as one of People's "50 Beautiful People" in May 2006.


In the show's third season, Washington became a central figure in a widely reported backstage controversy. In October 2006, rumors surfaced that Washington had insulted co-star T.R. Knight with a homophobic slur. Shortly after the details of the argument became public, Knight publicly disclosed that he was gay. The situation seemed somewhat resolved when Washington issued a statement, apologizing for his "unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set".[1]

The controversy later resurfaced when the cast appeared at the Golden Globes in January 2007. While being interviewed on the red carpet prior to the awards, Washington joked, "I love gay. I wanted to be gay. Please let me be gay."[2] After the show won Best Drama, Washington, in response to press queries as to any conflicts backstage, said, "I never called T.R. a faggot."[2] However, in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Knight said that "everybody heard him".

After being rebuked by his studio, Touchstone Television (now ABC Studios), Washington issued a statement apologizing at length for using the epithet in an argument with Patrick Dempsey. On January 30, 2007, a source told People magazine that Washington was scheduled to return to the Grey's Anatomy set as early as that Thursday for the first time since entering "executive counseling" after making the comments at the Golden Globes.

However, on June 7, 2007, ABC announced it had decided not to renew Washington's contract, and that he would be dropped from the show. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," Washington said in a statement released by his publicist, borrowing the famous line from Network. In another report, Washington stated he was planning to "spend the summer pursuing charity work in Sierra Leone, work on an independent film and avoid worrying about the show."[3] Washington, in late June 2007, began asserting that racism within the media was a factor in his firing from the series.[4] On July 2, 2007, Washington appeared on Larry King Live on CNN, to present his side of the controversy. According to Washington, he never used the "F Word" in reference to Knight, but rather told Dempsey to stop treating him like a "F-word" during an argument "provoked" by Dempsey, who, he felt, was treating him like a "B-word," a "P-word," and the "F-word," which Washington said conveyed "somebody who is being weak and afraid to fight back."[5]

In July 2007, NBC decided to cast Washington as a guest star in a story arc in its new series Bionic Woman. NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman noted his eagerness to work with Washington, saying it would be "like A-Rod leaving the Yankees in midseason." However, Bionic Woman was cancelled after only eight episodes due to low ratings. Washington himself said that his dismissal from Grey's Anatomy was an unfortunate misunderstanding that he was eager to move past. By the beginning of the next season of Grey's Anatomy, Washington's character 'Burke' had left the show following the end of the season finale.

Recent work[edit]

Now focusing his efforts off-screen, Washington is a dedicated supporter of Sierra Leone. In November 2007, Washington and the Gondobay Manga Foundation opened its first school, Chief Foday Golia Memorial School, in the Njala Kendema village for 150 students in grades K-5. The new school, named in honor of the former leader of the village, replaces two grass huts not suited for occupants. In addition to building the school, Washington and the Gondobay Manga Foundation (an organization he founded that takes its name from the Sierra Leonean chieftaincy that he was awarded in 2011) advocate cooperative planning to achieve positive, timely improvements in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone. Washington has also been involved in the computer reconstruction efforts of Bunce Island, having donated $25,000 to the project. At the helm of the initiative are James Madison University professors Joseph Opala and Gary Chatelain, a historian and computer artist who are using their expertise to reconstruct the slave castle as it appeared in the year 1805. Their computer image will eventually serve as an educational tool for scholars.[6]

Washington served honorably in the United States Air Force. Active in promoting the arts, he hosted the recent 16th Annual Pan-African Film Festival. Washington was the Master of Ceremonies for the first White House Summit on Malaria to fight the war against malaria in 15 African countries. On September 25, 2008, Washington attended the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York City as an advisor to President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Washington served as a member of the President's personal delegation while the newly democratically elected President addressed the United Nations for the first time. The following day, President Koroma traveled to Washington, D.C. and took private meetings with Congressman Donald Payne and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. at the recommendation of Washington. Inspired by his first visit to the United States and Washington, D.C., Koroma announced at the Willard Hotel before his key Ministers, that he would grant Washington full citizenship and issue him his official Sierra Leone passport. This historical citizenship declaration made Washington the first African-American to receive such an honor and President Ernest Bai Koroma the first African President to perform such an act. Finalized on April 26, 2010, it concluded a longtime dream of dual citizenship for African-Americans by Pan African pioneers such as W.E.B. DuBois, Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Horace Mann Bond, Ralph Bunche, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Rev. Leon H. Sullivan.[7]

In 2010, Washington became an Honorary Board Member of the Seattle-based non-profit The Borgen Project, an organization that advocates global poverty legislation.[8]

Isaiah Washington has written a book called “A Man from Another Land.” The book chronicles Washington’s early life, his TV and Film Career, and his search to find his roots after going through a DNA test that showed his ancestors came from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since learning about his history, Washington has traveled to Sierra Leone, donated medical supplies to a hospital there, and built a school.[9] In Freetown, Sierra Leone, in April, 2011 Sierra Leoneans around the world came together for the historic celebration of the country's 50th Independence, which Isaiah Washington joined, and presented President Ernest Koroma a signed copy of his new book, "A Man from Another Land."[10]

On December 29, 2011 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey received Isaiah Washington, his wife Jenisa Washington and three children at the Justice and Development (AK Party) Headquarter's in Ankara, Turkey. Speaking to reporters at his arrival, Washington said that he came to Ankara to meet with the Prime Minister. "I am a big fan of Erdogan. I support his philosophy based on peace and prosperity. I will share my views on Sierra Leone and Africa with him." Later, after a one-hour meeting, Washington said that the meeting was fruitful.[11]

Isaiah Washington will play the role of Chancellor Jaha in The 100, an upcoming American post-apocalyptic drama television series that is expected to air on The CW Television Network during the 2013-14 American television season. The series is based on a book of the same name, the first in a series by Kass Morgan, and developed by Jason Rothenberg.

Washington also stars in the upcoming movie Blue Caprice, a film inspired by the Beltway sniper attacks during which two men, John Muhammed (Isaiah Washington) and Lee Malvo (Tequan Richmond), conducted a siege of terror on the Washington D.C. area. The film was released in theaters on September 13, 2013.[12]

Genealogical inquiry[edit]

Washington is of African descent. A genealogical DNA test conducted by African Ancestry, Inc. revealed that Washington's maternal ancestry can be traced to what is now Sierra Leone, and that he has an ancestral link to the Mende and Temne peoples there. In May 2006 he visited Sierra Leone, and received a warm welcome from the local people. He travelled to Sierra Leone in May 2006 marking the beginning of his charity work and was granted Sierra Leonean Citizenship, making him the first African American to be granted full citizenship based on DNA.

His paternal ancestry links him to the Mbundu people, an ethnic group in Angola.[13][14]


1991The Color of Love
Land Where My Fathers DiedMalcolmShort film
Strictly BusinessHustler
Alma's RainbowMilesDirect-to-video release
1995StonewallUniformed Cop
ClockersVictor Dunham
Dead PresidentsAndrew CurtisUncredited role
1996Girl 6Shoplifter
Get on the BusKyle
1997Love JonesSavon Garrison
1998Mixing NiaLewisDirect-to-video release
RitualsWendalShort film
1999True CrimeFrank Louis Beechum
Out of SightKenneth Miller
A Texas FuneralWalterDirect-to-video release
2000VeilBentleyDirect-to-video release
Romeo Must DieMac
2001TaraMaxDirect-to-video release
Exit WoundsGeorge Clark
Sacred Is the FleshRoland
2002Welcome to CollinwoodLeon
Ghost ShipGreer
2003Hollywood HomicideAntoine Sartain
This Girl's LifeShane
2004Wild Things 2Terence BridgeDirect-to-video release
Dead BirdsTodd
Trois: The EscortBernard 'Benny' GrierDirect-to-video release
2005The MogulsHomer
2008The Least of TheseFather Andre James
2010Hurricane SeasonCoach Buddy SimmonsDirect-to-video release
2011Área QThomas Mathews
2012"The Undershepherd"L.C.Direct-to-video release
2013Blue CapriceJohn MuhammedPending – Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actor
1991Law & OrderDerek HardyEpisode: Out of Control
1993StrappedWillieHBO TV-movie
1994Homicide: Life on the StreetLane StaleyEpisode: Black and Blue
Lifestories: Families in CrisisO.G.Episode: POWER – The Eddie Matos Story
1995NYPD BlueAntonio BostonEpisode: E.R.
1996Mr. and Mrs. LovingBlueABC TV-movie
New York UndercoverAndre MorganEpisode: Sympathy For the Devil
Episode: Andre's Choice
Soul of the GameAdult Willie MaysHBO TV-movie
Living SingleDr. Charles RobertsEpisode: I've Got You Under My Skin
Episode: Virgin Territory
Episode: Doctor in the House
1997High IncidentRulon 'RuDog' DouglasEpisode: Remote Control
Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the WayDwight GoodenTV-movie
1998Always OutnumberedWilfredHBO TV-movie
Ally McBealMichael RiversEpisode: The Inmates
Episode: Being There
2000Dancing in SeptemberGeorge WashingtonHBO TV-movie
Soul FoodMiles JenkinsEpisode: The More Things Change
Episode: The More Things Stay the Same
Episode: Heart of the Matter
2001Touched by an AngelReverend DavisEpisode: A Death in the Family
All My ChildrenPolice OfficerEpisode: 5 July 2001
2005–2007Grey's AnatomyPreston BurkeSeries regular, 61 episodes
2007Bionic WomanAntonio Pope
2013The 100Chancellor Jaha

Awards and nominations[edit]

Image Awards

Screen Actors Guild Awards


External links[edit]