Isaiah Washington

Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington.JPG

Washington after a speech at a Student National Medical Association conference, 2008
Born Isaiah Washington IV
August 3, 1963 (age 50)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1991—present
Spouse(s) Jenisa Garland (1996–present)
Children 3

Isaiah Washington IV (born August 3, 1963) is an American actor. A veteran of severalSpike Lee films, Washington is best known for his role as Dr. Preston Burke on the ABCmedical 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 theUnited 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.”[1] 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 racismwithin 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.

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.[6]

Recent work[edit]

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.[7][8]

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.[9]

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 fullcitizenship based on DNA.

His paternal ancestry links him to the Mbundu people, an ethnic group in Angola.[10][11]


Year Film Role Notes
1991 The Color of Love
Land Where My Fathers Died Malcolm Short film
Strictly Business Hustler
1994 Crooklyn Vic
Alma’s Rainbow Miles Direct-to-video release
1995 Stonewall Uniformed Cop
Clockers Victor Dunham
Dead Presidents Andrew Curtis Uncredited role
1996 Girl 6 Shoplifter
Get on the Bus Kyle
1997 Love Jones Savon Garrison
1998 Mixing Nia Lewis Direct-to-video release
Bulworth Darnell
Rituals Wendal Short film
1999 True Crime Frank Louis Beechum
Out of Sight Kenneth Miller
A Texas Funeral Walter Direct-to-video release
2000 Veil Bentley Direct-to-video release
Romeo Must Die Mac
Kin Stone
2001 Tara Max Direct-to-video release
Exit Wounds George Clark
Sacred Is the Flesh Roland
2002 Welcome to Collinwood Leon
Ghost Ship Greer
2003 Hollywood Homicide Antoine Sartain
This Girl’s Life Shane
2004 Wild Things 2 Terence Bridge Direct-to-video release
Dead Birds Todd
Trois: The Escort Bernard ‘Benny’ Grier Direct-to-video release
2005 The Moguls Homer
2008 The Least of These Father Andre James
2010 Hurricane Season Coach Buddy Simmons Direct-to-video release
2011 Área Q Thomas Mathews
2012 The Undershepherd L.C. Direct-to-video release
2013 Blue Caprice John Muhammed Pending – Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actor
Year Title Role Notes
1991 Law & Order Derek Hardy Episode: Out of Control
1993 Strapped Willie HBO TV-movie
1994 Homicide: Life on the Street Lane Staley Episode: Black and Blue
Lifestories: Families in Crisis O.G. Episode: POWER – The Eddie Matos Story
1995 NYPD Blue Antonio Boston Episode: E.R.
1996 Mr. and Mrs. Loving Blue ABC TV-movie
New York Undercover Andre Morgan Episode: Sympathy For the Devil
Episode: Andre’s Choice
Soul of the Game Adult Willie Mays HBO TV-movie
Living Single Dr. Charles Roberts Episode: I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Episode: Virgin Territory
Episode: Doctor in the House
1997 High Incident Rulon ‘RuDog’ Douglas Episode: Remote Control
Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way Dwight Gooden TV-movie
1998 Always Outnumbered Wilfred HBO TV-movie
Ally McBeal Michael Rivers Episode: The Inmates
Episode: Being There
2000 Dancing in September George Washington HBO TV-movie
Soul Food Miles Jenkins Episode: The More Things Change
Episode: The More Things Stay the Same
Episode: Heart of the Matter
2001 Touched by an Angel Reverend Davis Episode: A Death in the Family
All My Children Police Officer Episode: 5 July 2001
2005–2007; 2014 Grey’s Anatomy Preston Burke Series regular, 61 episodes
2007 Bionic Woman Antonio Pope
2013 The 100 Chancellor Jaha

Awards and nominations[edit]

Image Awards

  • 2002: Nominated, “Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special” – Dancing in September
  • 2006: Won, “Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series” – Grey’s Anatomy
  • 2007: Won, “Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series” – Grey’s Anatomy

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • 2006: Nominated, “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series” – Grey’s Anatomy
  • 2007: Won, “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series” – Grey’s Anatomy
  • 2008: Nominated, “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series” – Grey’s Anatomy


  1. Jump up^ “EXCLUSIVE: Isaiah Washington Apologizes”. People. October 25, 2006.
  2. Jump up^ The Associated Press (January 17, 2007). “Isaiah Washington: ‘I Love Gay'”. Access Hollywood. Archived fromthe original on 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2007-01-17.
  3. Jump up^ “ABC drops Washington from Grey’s Anatomy” June 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
  4. Jump up^ “Racism was a factor”Washington Post, June 28, 2007
  5. Jump up^ For the transcript, see
  6. Jump up^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 7, 2014). “Isaiah Washington Returning to ‘Grey’s Anatomy'”The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  7. Jump up^ TV Star Isaiah Washington on “Game Changers” Tonight, Tami DeVine, Crown City News
  8. Jump up^ Gloria Betts and Umaru Kebbay take the initiative to make the difference at home during Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary CelebrationCocorioko, May 26, 2011
  9. Jump up^
  10. Jump up^ Isaiah Washington, Master of Ceremonies and Star of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy
  11. Jump up^

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Isaiah Washington.

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