Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington IV
(born August 3, 1963) is an American 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 to 2007.

Personal 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. 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 (Isaiah V, Tyme and Iman).


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 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 honoured by TV Guide Magazine 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 honour, 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, news reports 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, apologising for his "unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set."

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." 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." 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 apologising 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 Grey's Anatomy set as early on that Thursday for the first time since entering "executive counselling" 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." In a subsequent interview, Washington claimed that "they fired the wrong guy" (referring to Knight) and said he was considering filing a lawsuit as a result. He accused Knight of using the controversy to bolster his own career and increase his salary on Grey's Anatomy. Washington, in late June 2007, began asserting that racism within the media was a factor in his firing from the series. 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 blurted it out in an unrelated context in the course of 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."

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.

Recent WorkEdit

Now focusing his efforts off-screen, Washington is a devout supporter of Sierra Leone. In November 2007, Washington and the Gondobay Manga Foundation opened its first school, Chief Foday Golia Memorial School, in the Njala Kendema village for 150 students in grades K-5. The new school, named in honour of the former leader of the village, replaces two grass huts not suited for occupants. In addition to building the school, Washington and the Gondobay Manga Foundation advocate co-operative planning to achieve positive, timely improvements in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone. By uniting passionate people, The Foundation strives for immediate impact by addressing one village at a time. This singular approach tailors initiatives to the specific needs of the village community, while drawing the attention of the international community to distinct goals. In undertaking such issues as road building, water supply, and electricity, The Foundation will stress the need for reliability, accountability, and sustainability in the infrastructure of Sierra Leone. Washington has also been involved in the computer reconstruction efforts of Bunce Island, having donated $25,000 to the project. At the helm of the initiative are James Madison University profesors Joseph Opala and Gary Chatelain, a historian and computer artist who are using their expertise to reconstruct the slave castle as it appeared in the year 1805. Their computer image will eventually serve as an educational tool for scholars.

Washington honourably served in the United States Air Force. Active in promoting the arts, he hosted the recent 16th Annual Pan-African Film Festival. Washington was the Master of Ceremonies for the first White House Summit on Malaria to fight the war against malaria in 15 African countries. On September 25, 2008, Washington attended the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York City as an advisor to President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Washington served as a member of the President's personal delegation while the newly democratically elected President addressed the United Nations for the first time. The following day, President Koroma travelled to Washington, D.C. and took private meetings with Congressman Donald Payne and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. at the recommendation of Washington. Inspired by his first visit to the United States and Washington, D.C., Koroma announced at the Willard Hotel before his key Ministers, that he would grant Washington full citizenship and issue him his official Sierra Leone passport. This historical citizenship declaration made Washington the first African-American to receive such an honour and President Ernest Bai Koroma the first African President to perform such an act. Finalised on April 26, 2010, it concluded a longtime dream of dual citizenship for African-Americans by Pan African pioneers such as W.E.B. DuBois, Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Horace Mann Bond, Ralph Bunche, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Edward Wilmot Blyden and Rev. Leon H. Sullivan.

In 2010, Washington became an Honourary Board Member of the Seattle-based non-profit The Borgen Project, an organisation that advocated global poverty legislation.

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 travelled to Sierra Leone, donated medical supplies to a hospital there, and built a school. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, in April 2011, Sierra Leoneans around the world came together for the historic celebration of the country's 50th Independence, which Isaiah Washington joined, and presented President Ernest Koroma a signed copy of his new book, "A Man from Another Land."

On December 29, 2011 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey received Isaiah Washington, his wife Jenisa Washington and three children at the Justice and Development (AK Party) Headquarter's in Ankara, Turkey. Speaking to reporters of his arrival, Washington said that he came to Ankara to meet with Prime Minister Erdogan. "I am a big fan of Erdogan. I support his philosophy based on peace and prosperity. I will share my views on Sierra Leone and Africa with him." Later, after a one hour meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan, Washington said that the meeting was fruitful.

Genealogical InquiryEdit

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.



Year Title Role
1991 The Color of Love
Land Where My Fathers Died Malcolm
Strictly Business Hustler
1994 Crooklyn Vic
Alma's Rainbow Miles
1995 Stonewall Uniformed Cop
Clockers Victor Dunham
Dead Presidents Andrew Curtis
1996 Girl 6 Shoplifter
Get on the Bus Kyle
1997 Love Jones Savon Garrison
1998 Mixing Nia Lewis
Bulworth Darnell
Rituals Wendal
1999 True Crime Frank Louis Beechum
Out of Sight Kenneth Miller
A Texas Funeral Walter
2000 Veil Bentley
Romeo Must Die Mac
Kin Stone
2001 Tara Max
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
Dead Birds Todd
Trois 3: 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


Year Title Role
1991 Law & Order Derek Hardy
1993 Strapped Willie
1994 Homicide: Life on the Street Lane Staley
Lifestories: Families in Crisis O.G.
1995 NYPD Blue Antonio Boston
1996 Mr. and Mrs. Loving Blue
New York Undercover Andre Morgan
Soul of the Game Adult Willie Mays
Living Single Dr. Charles Roberts
1997 High Incident Rulon "RuDog" Douglas
Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way Dwight Gooden
1998 Always Outnumbered Wilfred
Ally McBeal Michael Rivers
2000 Dancing in September George Washington
Soul Food Miles Jenkins
2001 Touched by an Angel Reverend Davis
All My Children Police Officer
2005-2007 Grey's Anatomy Preston Burke
2007 Bionic Woman Antonio Pope

Awards and NominationsEdit

Image AwardsEdit

  • 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 AwardsEdit

  • 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