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 51)
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 51)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Years active1991—present
Spouse(s)Jenisa Garland (1996–present)

Isaiah Washington IV (born August 3, 1963) is an American-Sierra Leonean 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.


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".[3] 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".[4] Washington, in late June 2007, began asserting that racism within the media was a factor in his firing from the series.[5] 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".[6]

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.

In January 2014, in an interview with I Am Entertainment magazine, Washington spoke about life after Grey's Anatomy and he stated, "I don’t worry about whether or not the stories I tell will destroy my acting career because, you can’t take away something that doesn’t exist. They killed the actor (in me) on June 7, 2007."[7]

On March 6, 2014, ABC announced that Washington would be returning to the show in a guest appearance as Burke. He will return in a May episode, which will serve as part of a farewell storyline for Sandra Oh's character, Dr. Cristina Yang. The characters had been previously engaged to be married.[8]

Recent work[edit]

Washington has written a book called A Man from Another Land, which 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 in 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][10]

Washington is playing the role of Chancellor Jaha in The 100, an American post-apocalyptic drama television series that began airing on The CW Television Network in spring 2014. The series is based on a book of the same name by Kass Morgan, and developed by Jason Rothenberg.

Washington also starred in the film Blue Caprice, which was inspired by the Beltway sniper attacks during which two men, John Muhammed (played by 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.[11]

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.[12][13]


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
2012The UndershepherdL.C.Direct-to-video release
2013Blue CapriceJohn MuhammedPending – Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actor
2014BlackbirdLance Rousseau
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
2005–2007; 2014Grey's AnatomyPreston BurkeSeries regular (61 episodes), Guest Star Season 10 (1 episode)
2007Bionic WomanAntonio Pope
2014–presentThe 100Chancellor Thelonius Jaha

Awards and nominations[edit]

Image Awards

Screen Actors Guild Awards


  1. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Isaiah Washington Apologizes". People. October 25, 2006. 
  2. ^ The Associated Press (January 17, 2007). "Isaiah Washington: 'I Love Gay'". Access Hollywood. Archived from the original on 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Transcript of Interview with Isaiah Washington and Brooke Anderson". Showbiz Tonight. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "ABC drops Washington from Grey's Anatomy". June 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-08. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Racism was a factor", Washington Post, June 28, 2007
  6. ^ For the transcript, see
  7. ^ Freeman, Shaine (January 17, 2014). "Isaiah Washington the Millennium Triumph Man". I Am Entertainment. 
  8. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 7, 2014). "Isaiah Washington Returning to 'Grey's Anatomy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ TV Star Isaiah Washington on “Game Changers” Tonight, Tami DeVine, Crown City News
  10. ^ Gloria Betts and Umaru Kebbay take the initiative to make the difference at home during Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary Celebration, Cocorioko, May 26, 2011
  11. ^ Ito, Robert (September 12, 2013). "After African Detour, Isaiah Washington Is Back on Screen". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Isaiah Washington, Master of Ceremonies and Star of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy
  13. ^

External links[edit]