Isaiah Washington

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Isaiah Washington
Washington at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con
Isaiah Washington IV

  • United States
  • Sierra Leone
Alma materHoward University
  • Actor
  • film producer
Years active1991–present

Isaiah Washington IV is an American actor and film producer. Following a series of film appearances, he came to prominence for portraying Dr. Preston Burke in the first three seasons of the series Grey's Anatomy from 2005 to 2007.

Washington began his career collaborating with director Spike Lee on the films Crooklyn (1994), Clockers (1995), Girl 6 (1996), and Get on the Bus (1996). He also appeared in the films Love Jones (1997), Bulworth (1998), Out of Sight (1998), True Crime (1999), Romeo Must Die (2000), Exit Wounds (2001), Ghost Ship (2002), and Hollywood Homicide (2003). In 2005, Washington landed his breakthrough role as Preston Burke on Grey's Anatomy. He was dismissed after the third season due to his usage of a homophobic slur while referring to a cast member, T. R. Knight, although he would return for a guest appearance in 2014. From 2014 to 2018, Washington portrayed Thelonious Jaha on The CW's science fiction television series The 100.

In 2020, Washington became the host of a travel cooking show on Fox Nation.[2] In 2022, he made his directional debut with the Western film Corsicana (2022).

Early 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. He joined the United States Air Force when he was 19 years old, where he worked on the Northrop T-38 Talon.[3][1] His first assignment was at Clark Air Base in the Philippines followed by two years at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico.[1] After serving in the Air Force, he attended Howard University.


Early roles[edit]

Washington made his feature film debut in 1991's Strictly Business before engaging in a string of collaborations with director Spike Lee. Between 1994 and 1996, Washington appeared in Lee's films Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Get on the Bus. He also had roles in the films Stonewall, Dead Presidents, Love Jones, Out of Sight, Bulworth, True Crime, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Hollywood Homicide, and Wild Things 2.

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 Cristina Yang. Washington had originally auditioned for the role of Derek Shepherd, which ultimately went to Patrick Dempsey. Burke had originally been described as a nebbishy, stout forty-something man. For his portrayal of 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. On March 6, 2014, ABC announced that Washington would be returning to the show in a guest appearance as Burke. He returned in season 10, which served as part of a farewell storyline for Sandra Oh's character, Cristina Yang. The characters had been previously engaged to be married.[4]

Dismissal controversy[edit]

In the show's third season, Washington became a central figure in a widely reported backstage controversy. In October 2006, rumors surfaced that Washington allegedly insulted co-star T. R. Knight with a homophobic slur while arguing with Patrick Dempsey. Knight was not on the set at the time. Shortly after the details of the argument became public, Knight publicly disclosed that he was gay. There were rumors that Knight was going to be outed by the media. The situation seemed somewhat resolved when Washington issued a statement, apologizing for his "unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set".[5]

While being interviewed on the red carpet at the Golden Globes in January 2007, Washington joked, "I love gay. I wanted to be gay. Please let me be gay".[6] After the show won Best Drama, Washington, in response to press queries as to any conflicts backstage, said, "No, I did not call T.R. a faggot".[7] 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".[8] Washington, in late June 2007, began asserting that racism within the media was a factor in his firing from the series.[9] 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". He also disputed the accusations made by Knight, who he claimed was misrepresenting himself out of disappointment over his character.[10]

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."[11]

Recent work[edit]

Washington played 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's character was killed in the second episode of the show's fifth season, "Red Queen".

Washington also starred in the film Blue Caprice, which was inspired by the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks. Washington portrayed perpetrator John Allen Muhammad, with Tequan Richmond playing Muhammed's accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo. The film was released in theaters on September 13, 2013.[12]

Washington began hosting a travel and cooking show Isaiah Washington: Kitchen Talk on Fox Nation, the streaming service arm of the Fox conglomerate, in 2020.[2]

In 2022, Washington made his directorial debut with the film Corsicana, which he also co-wrote and starred in.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Washington endorsed Jill Stein for President of the United States in 2016,[14] but has since become a member of the #WalkAway movement.[15]

In 2019, Washington expressed political alignment with the Republican Party.[16]

Genealogical inquiry[edit]

Washington is of African descent. He 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.[citation needed] 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. Since learning about his history, Washington has traveled to Sierra Leone, donated medical supplies to a hospital there, and built a school.[17][18] He traveled 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.[19] He has also been vested with a chieftaincy title of the Mende people in appreciation for his work in the country, taking the regnal name of Gondobay Manga II.[20] His paternal ancestry also links him to the Mbundu people, an ethnic group in Angola.[21][22]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Land Where My Fathers Died Malcolm Short
Strictly Business Hustler
The Color of Love -
1993 Strapped Willie TV movie
1994 Crooklyn Vic
Alma's Rainbow Miles
1995 Stonewall Uniformed Cop
Clockers Victor Dunham
Dead Presidents Andrew Curtis
1996 Girl 6 Shoplifter
Mr. and Mrs. Loving Blue TV movie
Soul of the Game Adult Willie Mays TV movie
Get on the Bus Kyle
1997 Love Jones Savon Garrison
Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way Dwight Gooden TV movie
The Player - TV movie
1998 Always Outnumbered Wilfred TV movie
Mixing Nia Lewis
Bulworth Darnell
Rituals Wendal Short
Out of Sight Kenneth Miller
1999 True Crime Frank Louis Beechum
A Texas Funeral Walter
2000 Dancing in September George Washington
Romeo Must Die Mac
Kin Stone
Veil Bentley Short
2001 Exit Wounds George Clark
Tara Max Video
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 Video
Dead Birds Todd
Trois: The Escort Bernard 'Benny' Grier Video
2005 The Moguls Homer
2008 The Least of These Father Andre James
2009 Hurricane Season Coach Buddy Simmons
2011 Area Q Thomas Mathews
2012 David E. Talbert's Suddenly Single Sylvester Stone Sr. Video
The Undershepherd L.C.
2013 Blue Caprice John Allen Muhammad
Doctor Bello Dr. Michael Durant
Go for Sisters Vernell
They Die by Dawn Ben Hodges
The Trials of Cate McCall Wilson George
Not 4 Sale Sidney Poitier Short
2014 Blackbird Lance Rousseau
Vice Versa Dr. Jack Short
2015 The Sin Seer Grant Summit
2016 Secret Summer Gus TV movie
2017 Dead Trigger Rockstock
2018 Behind the Movement E.D. Nixon TV movie
2019 Keys to the City August King
2020 Cut Throat City Sinclair Stewart
Trump Card Himself Documentary
2021 God's Not Dead: We the People Rep. Daryl Smith [23]
2022 James the Second Dr. Ramesh
Corsicana Bass Reeves Also director, writer and executive producer


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Law & Order Derek Hardy Episode: "Out of Control"
1992 Loving Dr. Ron Turner Regular Cast
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 New York Undercover Andre Morgan Recurring cast: season 2
Living Single Dr. Charles Roberts Recurring cast: season 4
1997 High Incident Rulon "RuDog" Douglas Episode: "Remote Control"
1998 Ally McBeal Michael Rivers Episode: "The Inmates" & "Being There"
2000 Soul Food Miles Jenkins Recurring cast: season 1
2001 Touched by an Angel Rev. Austin Davis Episode: "A Death in the Family"
All My Children Police Officer Episode: "Episode #1.8125"
2005–07, 2014 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Preston Burke Main cast: season 1-3, guest: season 10
2007 Bionic Woman Antonio Pope Recurring cast
2008 The Cleaner Keith Bowen Episode: "The Eleventh Hour"
2011 Law & Order: LA Roland Davidson Episode: "Carthay Circle"
Single Ladies Noland Episode: "Confidence Games"
2014–18 The 100 Thelonious Jaha Main cast: season 1-5
2017 Blue Bloods Chief Travis Jackson Episode: "A Deep Blue Goodbye"
Bull Jules Caffrey Episode: "Bring It On"
Survivor's Remorse Rodney Barker Recurring cast: season 4
2019 Tales Malcolm Episode: "Brothers"
2020 Isaiah Washington: Kitchen Talk Himself Host[24]
2020–22 P-Valley Mayor Tydell Ruffin Recurring cast: season 1, guest: season 2

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated Work Result
2002 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Dancing in September Nominated
2006 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Grey's Anatomy Won
Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Cast – Television Series Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Won
Monte-Carlo Television Festival Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Nominated
2007 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2014 Black Reel Awards Black Reel Award for Outstanding Actor Blue Caprice Nominated
Gotham Awards Gotham Independent Award for Best Actor Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Doyle, Kyla. "Q&A With Hollywood Star and Gun Guy Isaiah Washington", Skillset magazine website, April 30, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Lindsey Ellefson (November 26, 2019). "Former 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Isaiah Washington Lands New Fox Nation Show (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Andrea Morabito (March 31, 2017). "Isaiah Washington leaned on military past for 'Blue Bloods' role". New York Post. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  4. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 7, 2014). "Isaiah Washington Returning to 'Grey's Anatomy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  5. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Isaiah Washington Apologizes". People. October 25, 2006.
  6. ^ The Associated Press (January 15, 2007). "Isaiah Washington: 'I Love Gay'". Access Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 20, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  7. ^ "Transcript of Interview with Isaiah Washington and Brooke Anderson". Showbiz Tonight. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "ABC drops Washington from Grey's Anatomy". June 8, 2007. Archived from the original on June 11, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  9. ^ "Racism was a factor", Washington Post, June 28, 2007.
  10. ^ " - Transcripts". Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  11. ^ Freeman, Shaine (January 17, 2014). "Isaiah Washington the Millennium Triumph Man". I Am Entertainment #26. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  12. ^ Ito, Robert (September 12, 2013). "After African Detour, Isaiah Washington Is Back on Screen". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Rockett, Darcel (December 15, 2022). "Isaiah Washington brings us Bass Reeves in 'Corsicana,' a film about the first Black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi". Chicago Tribune.
  14. ^ Tom Cahill (July 12, 2016). "Donations to Jill Stein Explode Nearly 1000% Since Sanders' Endorsement of Clinton". Archived from the original on July 14, 2016.
  15. ^ Halon, Yael (September 4, 2019). "'Grey's Anatomy' star Isaiah Washington opens up about decision to leave the Democratic party after Trump White House visit". Fox News. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  16. ^ Isaiah Washington On Being A Black Republican - On The 7 With Dr. Sean. Fox Soul. November 24, 2019. Event occurs at 4m57s. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  17. ^ TV Star Isaiah Washington on “Game Changers” Tonight Archived June 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Tami DeVine, Crown City News
  18. ^ Gloria Betts and Umaru Kebbay take the initiative to make the difference at home during Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary Celebration Archived October 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Cocorioko, May 26, 2011
  19. ^ Remoe, Vickie (April 26, 2010). "Reclaiming the Middle Passage: African-American Actor Isaiah Washington becomes first to use DNA Testing to gain Citizenship to an African Nation (Sierra Leone) - Sierra Leone News".
  20. ^ Ito, Robert (September 12, 2013). "A Comeback on His Own Terms". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Participant Bios: The White House Summit on Malaria".
  22. ^ "The Isaiah Washington Picture Pages".
  23. ^ Bond, Paul (July 14, 2021). "New "God's Not Dead" movie to star "blacklisted" Antonio Sabato Jr". Newsweek. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  24. ^ John Whitehouse (July 17, 2020). "Fox Nation's newest show is hosted by a QAnon supporter". Media Matters for America. Retrieved September 8, 2020.

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