Isaiah Washington

Isaiah Washington IV (born August 3, 1963) is an American actor and media personality.[1] 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.

Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington SDCC 2013.jpg
Washington at the 2013
San Diego Comic-Con
Isaiah Washington IV

(1963-08-03) August 3, 1963 (age 57)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Alma materHoward University
OccupationActor, internet personality
Years active1991–present
Jenisa Marie Garland
(m. 1996)

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), 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 a usage of homophobic slurs to his fellow 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.[1]

Early lifeEdit

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 went on to serve in the United States Air Force[2] and attended Howard University.


Early rolesEdit

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 AnatomyEdit

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.[3]

Dismissal controversyEdit

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".[4]

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".[5] 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".[6] 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".[7] Washington, in late June 2007, began asserting that racism within the media was a factor in his firing from the series.[8] 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.[9]

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."[10]

Recent workEdit

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.[11]

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.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Washington married Jenisa Marie Garland on February 14, 1996. The couple have three children.

Washington had endorsed Jill Stein for President of the United States,[12] but has since become a member of the #WalkAway movement.[13] He has also promoted opinions prevalent in conservative online communities on his social media accounts, such as the QAnon conspiracy theory.[14]

Genealogical inquiryEdit

Washington is of African descent. 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.[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.[15][16] 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.[17] 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.[citation needed] His paternal ancestry also links him to the Mbundu people, an ethnic group in Angola.[18][19]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 The Color of Love N/A
1991 Land Where My Fathers Died Malcolm Short film
1991 Strictly Business Hustler
1993 Strapped Willie Television film
1994 Crooklyn Vic
1994 Alma's Rainbow Miles
1995 Stonewall Uniformed Cop
1995 Clockers Victor Dunham
1995 Dead Presidents Andrew Curtis Uncredited
1996 Girl 6 Shoplifter
1996 Mr. and Mrs. Loving Blue Television movie
1996 Get on the Bus Kyle
1996 Soul of the Game Adult Willie Mays Television film
1997 Love Jones Savon Garrison
1997 Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way Dwight Gooden Television film
1998 Always Outnumbered Wilfred Television film
1998 Mixing Nia Lewis
1998 Bulworth Darnell
1998 Rituals Wendal Short film
1999 True Crime Frank Louis Beechum
1999 Out of Sight Kenneth Miller
1999 A Texas Funeral Walter
2000 Veil Bentley
2000 Romeo Must Die Mac
2000 Dancing in September George Washington Television film
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
2000 Kin Stone
2001 Tara Max
2001 Exit Wounds George Clark
2001 Sacred Is the Flesh Roland
2002 Welcome to Collinwood Leon
2002 Ghost Ship Greer
2003 Hollywood Homicide Antoine Sartain
2003 This Girl's Life Shane
2004 Wild Things 2 Terence Bridge
2004 Dead Birds Todd
2004 Trois: The Escort Bernard 'Benny' Grier
2005 The Moguls Homer
2008 The Least of These Father Andre James
2010 Hurricane Season Coach Buddy Simmons
2011 Area Q Thomas Mathews
2012 The Undershepherd L.C.
2012 David E. Talbert's Suddenly Single Sylvester Stone Sr.
2013 Blue Caprice John Allen Muhammad Nominated – Black Reel Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Gotham Independent Award for Best Actor
2013 Doctor Bello Dr. Michael Durant
2014 Blackbird Lance Rousseau
2015 The Sin Seer Grant Summit
2016 Secret Summer Gus Television film
2017 Dead Trigger Rockstock
2018 Behind the Movement E.D. Nixon Television film
2019 Keys to the City August King
2020 Cut Throat City Sinclair Stewart
2020 Trump Card Isaiah Washington (as himself), interviewed by Dinesh D'Souza Political documentary
2020 James the Second Dr. Ramesh Post-production
2021 Escape from Black Water Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Law & Order Derek Hardy Episode: "Out of Control"
1994 Homicide: Life on the Street Lane Staley Episode: "Black and Blue"
1994 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 3 episodes
1996 Living Single Dr. Charles Roberts 3 episodes
1997 High Incident Rulon "RuDog" Douglas Episode: "Remote Control"
1998 Ally McBeal Michael Rivers 2 episodes
2000 Soul Food Miles Jenkins 3 episodes
2001 Touched by an Angel Rev. Austin Davis Episode: "A Death in the Family"
2001 All My Children Police Officer Episode: "5 July 2001"
Grey's Anatomy Dr. Preston Burke 62 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (2006–07)
Satellite Award for Best Cast – Television Series
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated – Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
2007 Bionic Woman Antonio Pope 5 episodes
2008 The Cleaner Keith Bowen Episode: "The Eleventh Hour"
2011 Law & Order: LA Roland Davidson Episode: "Carthay Circle"
2011 Single Ladies Noland Episode: "Confidence Games"
2014–2018 The 100 Thelonious Jaha 44 episodes
2017 Blue Bloods Chief Travis Jackson Episode: "A Deep Blue Goodbye"
2017 Bull Jules Caffrey Episode: "Bring It On"
2020 P-Valley Mayor Tydell Ruffin 6 episodes
2020 Isaiah Washington: Kitchen Talk[14] Himself Host

Awards and nominationsEdit

Image Awards

Year Category Nominated Work Result
2002 Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Dancing in September Nominated
2006 Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Grey's Anatomy Won
2007 Won

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Year Category Nominated Work Result
2006 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Grey's Anatomy Nominated
2007 Won
2008 Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Lindsey Ellefson (2019-11-26). "Former 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Isaiah Washington Lands New Fox Nation Show (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  2. ^ Andrea Morabito (2017-03-31). "Isaiah Washington leaned on military past for 'Blue Bloods' role". New York Post. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  3. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (March 7, 2014). "Isaiah Washington Returning to 'Grey's Anatomy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  4. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Isaiah Washington Apologizes". People. October 25, 2006.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Transcript of Interview with Isaiah Washington and Brooke Anderson". Showbiz Tonight. Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  7. ^ "ABC drops Washington from Grey's Anatomy". June 8, 2007. Archived from the original on June 11, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  8. ^ "Racism was a factor", Washington Post, June 28, 2007.
  9. ^ For the transcript, see
  10. ^ Freeman, Shaine (January 17, 2014). "Isaiah Washington the Millennium Triumph Man". I Am Entertainment #26. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  11. ^ Ito, Robert (September 12, 2013). "After African Detour, Isaiah Washington Is Back on Screen". The New York Times.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Halon, Yael (2019-09-04). "'Grey's Anatomy' star Isaiah Washington opens up about decision to leave the Democratic party after Trump White House visit". Fox News. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  14. ^ a b John Whitehouse (2020-07-17). "Fox Nation's newest show is hosted by a QAnon supporter". Media Matters for America. Retrieved 2020-09-08.
  15. ^ TV Star Isaiah Washington on “Game Changers” Tonight Archived 2011-06-21 at the Wayback Machine, Tami DeVine, Crown City News
  16. ^ Gloria Betts and Umaru Kebbay take the initiative to make the difference at home during Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary Celebration Archived 2011-10-02 at the Wayback Machine, Cocorioko, May 26, 2011
  17. ^ Remoe, Vickie. "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".
  18. ^ "Participant Bios: The White House Summit on Malaria".
  19. ^ "The Isaiah Washington Picture Pages".

External linksEdit