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Isaiah stars as "Preston Burke" on ABC's new series "Grey's Anatomy." The show is based on the daily personal and professional struggles of young student interns working at a rigorous hospital. A native of Houston, Texas, Isaiah Washington spent four years in the Air Force before studying drama at Washington, DC's Howard University. While at Howard, he won a role in the play Spell #7 and then moved to New York to further pursue his career. There he appeared in a number of stage productions, including August Wilson's Fences and Thornton Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth. With a passion for theater, Washington became one of the founding members of City Kids Repertory, a theater group that visits high schools and community centers throughout New York. Washington first made his mark in cinema in gritty crime dramas and romantic ensemble comedies. He has been featured in four acclaimed Spike Lee films: Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Get on the Bus. Other feature credits include Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die, True Crime, Bulworth, Out of Sight, Love Jones, Dead Presidents, Stonewall, Strictly Business and the acclaimed Dancing in September - a performance which earned him a nomination for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor. More recently Washington was seen in Ghost Ship, Welcome to Collinwood and Hollywood Homicide. Upcoming films include Moguls and Dead Birds. On television, he has guest-starred in several series, including NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street, Ally McBeal, New York Undercover, Living Single, Soul Food and Touched by an Angel.
Washington makes his home in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He was born on August 3, 1963, in Houston, Texas.
More fun facts about Isaiah Washington
Nickname: Mickey or Ike
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)
Spouse: Jenisa Marie Washington (14 February 1999 - present) 2 children
Graduated from Willowridge High School (1981, Houston, Texas)
He re-wrote several monologues in "Clocker's"; "True Crime"; "Get On The Bus"; "Romeo Must Die"; "Exit Wounds" and "Ghost Ships".
His personal quote:
"You don't have the time to "make the time" to do anything. You have to do it now!"
Isaiah Washington Specialty: Hoods
Here's what we know about Isaiah Washington:
1. He's good-looking.
2. He's tall.
3. We've seen quite a few of the movies he's made.
4. Generally, we barely remember what he did in them, except that he was a criminal of some kind.
You'd think we'd have a clearer memory of the onscreen exploits of such a tall, good-looking fellow; it's weird that we don't. We know we've seen him play crooks at all points on the criminal food chain, from petty shoplifters (Girl 6) to mid-level thugs (Out of Sight) to the head of an organized criminal enterprise (Romeo Must Die and, from what we can glean from its opaque TV spots, in this week's Hollywood Homicide, although it's possible he just plays a rap impresario; in Hollywood, there's a lot of crossover between people involved in rap and people involved in felonies).
But then there's Get on the Bus, in which Washington presumably didn't play a criminal...but maybe he did; we have no recollection of him (and not much more of that movie, come to think of it). And Clockers, which we saw...we think. We may have rented that and then fallen asleep halfway through it. Bulworth was probably on the movie channel at some point while we were cleaning the house, but we'll be damned if we can remember any scenes Washington was in.
Here's the little we remember about Isaiah Washington's body of work:
1. The scene in Girl 6 in which he shoplifts fruit from a bodega -- by dropping it into an empty Snugli to which he'd apparently sewn fake baby legs, precisely for shoplifting purposes -- until the shopkeeper catches him and chases him away, and the fruit goes flying everywhere, and it's a little funny.
2. The scene in Out of Sight in which Jennifer Lopez comes to his character's house and he starts ineptly coming on to her by telling her all about his dog Tuffy, and how Tuffy liked to "tussle," and how he would give her what "every good bitch wants -- a bone," and then she knocks his ass down with the aid of that little telescoping baton and goes, "You wanted to tussle. We tussled," and moseys on out of there, and because we all had no idea how the mention of her very name would, in just a few short years, cause us to lose the will to live, it was pretty cool.
3. That TV movie Dancing in September that he made with Nicole Ari Parker, where she plays a TV writer and he plays a network executive and he seems like a good guy but then turns out to be a bastard and then gets redeemed at the end? Maybe? We swear we watched that whole thing, but we seriously can't remember.
Assuming that our inability to retain memories of Isaiah Washington's career highlights is not due to some rare, Isaiah Washington-specific head injury we suffered sometime in the early '90s, it's probably due to one of two causes:
1. He's such a H!ITG! that he thoroughly disappears into each of his roles, making it impossible for us to recognize him.
2. He's been in some very forgettable movies.
Maybe Isaiah Washington deserves better than to keep playing hoods all the time. But maybe he doesn't. We just don't know.
Ghost Ship : Q& A with Isaiah Washington
Since his performances in acclaimed Spike Lee films: Clocker’s, Get on the Bus, Girl 6 and Crooklyn, Isaiah Washington has been a busy man! He delivered a stellar performance in the classic Love Jones, starred with Aaliyah and Jet Li in Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die and was featured in Warren Beatty’s Bulworth and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight. Washington was recently nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance in HBO’s Dancing In September and can currently be seen alongside Sam Rockwell and William H. Macy in Warner Bros. Pictures’ Welcome to Collinwood. Niambi Sims of blackfilm.com talks with him about his latest film Ghost Ship and discovers what really scares him!
NS: Tell us about the challenges of filming in water.
IW: Sharks man! Sharks! Literally! Particularly where they shot Juliana there was a shark net around her because there was a phenomenon of like a thousand sharks that rolled on chasing the bullet fish up north.
NS: What was it like working in Australia?
IW: It was too easy! No worries! I’m convinced that Australia is the last innocent country. There is some research done that says that when it is all said and done India and Australia will be the last countries left. I enjoyed Australia! I sipped wine and played golf and learned to surf. I had a ball! It was fabulous! I was the only African American in town and I didn’t play basketball and they didn’t know who I was. They were just open and generous and very innocent. The people were kind that’s all I can really say.
NS: You’ve worked with directors like Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood who are very grounded in reality in their movies yet you’re in this movie with very heavy CTI scenes. What was it like for you not to see what’s going on around you?
IW: It was hard! It was extraordinarily difficult. I will never ever take for granted those actors who worked on Star Wars, the Liam Neeson’s and Ewan Macgregor’s who had to perform with nothing but an X and a green screen. You just feel like a complete idiot performing. To be in a room surrounded by a green screen and having a voice scream to you “Ok, chandelier! OK table to the left” and try to feel like I’m actually in the moment, was very difficult.
NS: Was your character originally written for an African American?
IW: Always. Actually, when it was called Kimera, he still was the first mate, the guy who took over the ship. He was the leader of the ship but that changed by the time we got to Australia
NS: Does it feel good not to die first?
IW: I think I framed the page. I think it was page 74. Today the black man is always the first to go and in the first 30 minutes. In this film it was a Latino so Hollywood is getting progressive.
NS: Are you a fan of horror movies?
IW: I always have been. I’m not a hardcore fan but I like Freddie Kruger, Halloween and I own Scream.
NS: What scares you?
IW: I just like good pacing. I think the editing of any horror film is very important. If I get a startle or jolt than that’s good but usually their using some kind of affect. I think the only movie that scared me and still scares me is The Exorcist because there’s just something that’s just evil as heck about that movie.
NS: So what process did you use, as an actor, to achieve fear?
IW: That was very hard for me because Steve kept saying “Buck your eyes man be more afraid widen your eyes look more scared!” I said “Look man, I’m not widening my eyes to look scared. Black men don’t widen their eyes to show fear. I can’t look more scared” I don’t understand what that means because as an African American man in the year 2002 We’ve seen it all. What am I afraid of when I’ve been terrorized in a country just for being who I am. So we had to move away from being afraid and more towards disbelief and I think all of us had to do that because if we played “scared” I don’t think it would have worked.
NS: It seemed your character was more motivated by his libido than he was scared.
IW: You mean Francesca? Oh she was beautiful. A lot was removed that explained the characters and their struggles. Thank God for Gabriel Byrnes there were so many traps and clichés that we could have fallen into that we didn’t because of Gabriel Byrne not only being the captain of the ship but being the captain of the ensemble and saying” were not going to play scared were going to keep dealing with our flaws. His character was dealing with alcoholism, mine was dealing with fidelity.
NS: Why did you choose this film?
IW: I’ve had a relationship with Joel [Silver] he was kind enough to call me and asked me what my availability was and offered me the job. I didn’t have to audition.
NS: You just had your second child. What’s scarier being on a haunted ship or changing diapers?
IW: What’s scary is being in Australia and figuring out if I can get back to LA for the birth of my child March 29, the day I got off the plane he was born 8 hours later. The thought of not being able to make it that was pretty intense. The flight was about 17 hours but I flew on everybody’s prayers and got here just in the nick of time. As a matter of fact I named him “Time Baraka”.
Romeo Must Die Co-stars Russell Wong and Isaiah Washington
Jim Ferguson: Russell and Isaiah. Congratulations on "Romeo Must Die." Good job! Once it starts, from the beginning to the end you're glued right there. You don't lose it. Will you both agree that it does follow to a certain extent, Shakespeare's basic plot of "Romeo and Juliet?" The two families?
Isaiah Washington: Oh yes, definitely.
Russell Wong: In that sense, yeah. Both families at war.
Jim Ferguson: Of the Asian and black families.
Russell Wong: Perceived to be against each other.
Jim Ferguson: But there are other subplots. Usually, in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," it was the uncles that did all the dirty work. So your characters, Mak and Kai....
Isaiah Washington: Sort of taken from "Othello" and "Julius Caesar" and kind of borrowed from some other wonderful pieces. If you noticed that. (Laughter)
Jim Ferguson: I think it's important that we see Jet Li, an Asian in a romantic lead, would you agree Russell?
Russell Wong: I would agree. I think it's a good opportunity for him. A good opportunity for a lot of Asian American actors and performers.
Jim Ferguson: I love the football scene. The scene in the part with Jet. Was that fun?
Isaiah Washington: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. And Jet is a lot of fun. He was very very open. Still is. Very very generous. You know, I had a good time with him last night with Mr. Chow at the party, that Joel Silver put together for everyone. And all the people from the soundtrack were there. And he's going to be a very formidable star. He's going to move into the system pretty easy.
Jim Ferguson: I like the film in the sense that it was kind of a clash between two cultures. What's this hip hop Oakland stuff, Isaiah?
Isaiah Washington: Oh, it's very powerful. Hip hop is a multi-billion dollar industry. I mean, the guys that are hip hop artists were wearing jewellery that was probably my weekly salary on this movie. (Laughter) You know, so it's worth a lot, it's very powerful and very dynamic. So it's definitely a huge marketing tool which Joel Silver was smart enough and innovative enough to realize, "let's get the studio to put some powerhouse talents behind this and make this kind of movie, and bring both these elements together called hip hop culture and action and music, mix it up, and throw it up on the screen and see what happens." And I think we are all going to know what's going to happen.
Jim Ferguson: Oh yeah. And Aaliyah is just beautiful. I couldn't believe it was her film debut. You have one great fight scene. There's a couple, but I mean, a lot of choreography involved in that, Russell, is it a lot of rehearsal and hard work?
Russell Wong: Yeah, it is a lot of rehearsal. I started out in martial arts about 17 years ago, on and off over the last 17 years, and had met the fight choreographer, Corey Yuen in Hong Kong. So kind of planted the seed back then, and was always looking forward to working with the Hong Kong martial arts directors and Jet Li. It was always kind of like on my wish list and it kind of finally manifested. I've been working on other things in dance and acting and martial arts, and the opportunity sort of presented itself, and so I put a lot of time and a lot of rehearsal into the fight scenes.
Jim Ferguson: You looked pretty cool with the sun glasses.
Isaiah Washington: Oh, he was always cool. He was always cool. (Laughter)
Russell Wong: Kai, Kai is cool. You know? The hair didn't move. (Laughter)
Isaiah Washington: I had for the first time, actually I saw the first 25 minutes of the film, and I didn't realize how much I was missing of him. Yesterday I was going on and on and on about him, and how he looked in the final scene, not realizing how he looked in the beginning and the middle, and the end. So, I was like, wow, this is great!
Jim Ferguson: So, these are the bad guys, believe it or not, in this film. But they are really not so bad, you can tell that, Russell and Isaiah, and again, congratulations. Don't miss "Romeo Must Die."
Actor Isaiah Washington has many roles
Actor Isaiah Washington has been on the collective Robot mind a lot lately, and here's a Fame Audit from Fame Tracker: I guess we're not alone. He is in the new Hollywood Homicide, and he also played the role of Lane Staley (coincidence?*) in an episode of the TV show "Homicide". I seem to have a mental block similar to the FT writers about Isaiah and his many roles in many movies, apart from that same exact "Tuffy liked to tussle" scene from Out of Sight that's mentioned in the audit. Which we think indicates what a great character actor he is, like how he hung out on the streets of Detroit for months in preparation for his role [tx ADM]. -amy
If I ever meet Isaiah, I'm going to ask him if he and Don Cheadle knew each other before they were in movies. They're acting style is similar in some precise ways, and it makes me guess they either studied at the same school or learned from each other when they were young. If you ever watch either of them while they're being quizzed by another character, their shifty, non-chalant attitudes (just slightly tinged with weakness) seem to mirror each other. Tough, but punctuated with an almost imperceptible fear. You can see both of them in action at once in Out of Sight, where Cheadle is memorable as Snoopy Miller, and Isaiah (as Snoopy's cousin) has that great scene with J. Lo that Amy mentions.
Both of them command your attention as soon as they enter the frame, but can shift from a position of strength to one of weakness without your even noticing. Amy and I started talking about Washington the other night because I had just watched an old episode of Homicide in which he goes head to head with Andre Braugher in the interrogation box. Braugher's confidence, particularly in his Homicide role, is different from Washington's and Cheadle's: there is no vulnerability. And so, as he duels with Washington in the box, it becomes increasingly evident that the scene was never a duel at all: it was Braugher destroying Washington's character. And again, the moments in which Washington begins to shift from street-bred non-chalance to a broken man slip by you, until suddenly you can't believe that Washington's transformation occurred in only one scene. It's funny that Fame Tracker has a "Hey! It's that Guy!" profile of him...As I mentioned to Amy the other day, he and Cheadle seem ripe for a "Two Stars, One Spot" feature, and it does seem like IW has been getting less work since DC came into prominence in Boogie Nights. -adm
In another episode of Homicide, the detectives investigate someone named "Chris Novoselic", so it seems that the writers on the show had a thing for naming supporting characters after grunge rockers.
Isaiah Washington co-stars in the ABC's new series 'Grey's Anatomy'
Meet Meredith Grey. She's a woman trying to lead a real life while doing a job that makes having a real life impossible.
Meredith is a first year surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, the toughest surgical residency program west of Harvard. She and fellow first-year interns Cristina Yang, Izzie Stevens, George O'Malley and Alex Karev were students yesterday. Today they're doctors and, in a world where on the job training can be a matter of life and death, they're all juggling the ups and downs of their own personal lives.
The five interns struggle to form friendships in this most stressful and competitive atmosphere. Meredith's medical ambition is overshadowed by a troubling secret: Her mother, a noted pioneering surgeon, is struggling with a tragic and devastating illness. Cristina is a study in contradiction; highly competitive and driven, she eschews any favors in order to make it on her own. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens is the small-town girl who grew up dirt poor and, in spite of paying for her medical career by modeling, still struggles with her self-esteem. George O'Malley is the warm but insecure boy next door who always manages to do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time. In spite of his attraction to women, he's treated as "just one of the girls." And Alex Karev, the intern the other interns love to hate, masks his working class roots with arrogance and ambition.
The interns are guided by an established team of doctors who are determined to shape them into skilled surgeons or break them: Miranda Bailey, a senior resident responsible for training them, is so tough that she's nicknamed "The Nazi." Derek Shepherd is the flirtatious but very capable surgeon who shares a forbidden but undeniable sexual attraction with Meredith. Preston Burke's arrogance is second only to his skill with a scalpel. Overseeing them all is Dr. Richard Webber, Seattle Grace's paternal, but no-nonsense chief of surgery.
"Grey's Anatomy" focuses on young people struggling to be doctors and doctors struggling to stay human. It's the drama and intensity of medical training mixed with the funny, sexy, painful lives of interns who are about to discover that neither medicine nor relationships can be defined in black and white. Real life only comes in shades of grey.
"Grey's Anatomy" stars Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey, Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd, Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang, Isaiah Washington as Preston Burke, Katherine Heigl as Isobel "Izzie" Stevens, Justin Chambers as Alex Karev, T.R. Knight as George O'Malley, Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey and James Pickens, Jr. as Richard Webber.
Shonda Rhimes ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") is creator and executive producer. Mark Gordon ("Saving Private Ryan"), Betsy Beers ("200 Cigarettes") and Jim Parriott ("The American Embassy") are executive producers. Peter Horton is co-executive producer. "Grey's Anatomy" is a Touchstone Television Production.