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Isaiah Washington IV (born August 3, 1963) is an NAACP Image Award- and Screen Actors Guild-winning Americamarker 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.

Personal life

Washington was born in Houston, Texasmarker, where his parents were residents in the Houston Heights community. His parents relocated to Missouri City, Texasmarker 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 Universitymarker. Washington married Jenisa Marie Washington on February 14, 1999. The couple have three children (Isaiah, Tyme and Iman)


Grey's Anatomy

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 Magazine as one of "TV's Sexiest Men" in June 2006, and was named one 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 widely-reported backstage controversy. In October 2006, news reports surfaced that Washington had grabbed co-star Patrick Dempsey by the throat during an argument and called costar T.R. Knight a "faggot". 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."

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 that he had never referred to Knight as a "faggot." However, in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Knight said that "everybody heard him," despite Knight never directly hearing Washington use the epithet.

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 on 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 they 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 Leonemarker, 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."

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." Washington himself said that his dismissal from Grey's Anatomy was an unfortunate misunderstanding that he was eager to move past. After six episodes (out of eight total) Washington's character was killed off, and Bionic Woman was canceled.

Recent work

On September 25, 2008, Washington attended the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York Citymarker as an advisor to President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leonemarker. 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 traveled to Washington, D.C.marker 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 pledge is significant because the citizenship request is solely based on Washington's genetic ancestral link to the Mende people of Sierra Leone. This makes Washington the first African-American to receive such an honor, and Koroma the first African President to do such a thing. The historical citizenship request will be finalized in December 2008, concluding a long-time dream of dual citizenship for African-Americans by Pan African pioneers such as W. E. B. Du Bois, 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 Sullivan.

African American Lives Series

Washington is of African American descent. A genealogical DNA test conducted done by African Ancestry, Inc. revealed that Washington's maternal ancestry can be traced to Sierra Leonemarker, 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. His paternal ancestry links him to the Mbundu people, an ethnic group in Angolamarker.

Charity work

Inspired by his discovery of his direct genetic link to the Mende and Temne peoples of Sierra Leone, Washington (like talk show host Oprah Winfrey) has become known for his philanthropy in Africa. In 2007, he founded the Gondobay Manga Foundation, which advocates cooperative planning to achieve positive, timely improvements in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone. In May 2006, during a visit to Sierra Leone, Washington was named Chief Gondobay Manga by the Mende people. He later decided to use the name for his non-profit.

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 replaces two grass huts not suited for occupants. The school was named in honor of the former leader of the Njala Kendema village. In addition to building the school, Washington and the Gondobay Manga Foundation also donated uniforms and school supplies for each student. In March 2007, Washington donated $25,000 to the computer reconstruction project of Bunce Island. At the helm of the project are James Madison University professors Joseph Opala and Gary Chatelain, an historian and a computer artist. Opala and Chatelain 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 was the Master of Ceremonies for the first White House Summit on Malaria to fight the war against malaria in 15 African countries. He has also filmed PSA for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, among others. He is also active in promoting the arts, having hosted the recent 16th Annual Pan-African Film Festival. In addition to The Gondobay Manga Foundation, Washington also works with LA Regional Food Bank to get food to the needy in Los Angeles.


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
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 3: The Escort Bernard 'Benny' Grier Direct-to-Video Release
2005 The Moguls Homer
2008 The Least of These Father Andre James unreleased/unfinished
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 Grey's Anatomy Preston Burke
2007 Bionic Woman Antonio Pope

Awards and nominations

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


  2. Grey's star says they fired the wrong guy, Houston Chronicle, June 21, 2007
  3. "Racism was a factor",Washington Post, June 28, 2007
  4. For the transcript, see
  5. Isaiah Washington, Master of Ceremonies and Star of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy

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