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Isaiah Washington Biography

Home > Actors > W > Washington, Isaiah > Biography

Birth Name: Isaiah Washington
Born: 08/03/1963
Birth Place: Houston, Texas, USA

Born Aug. 3, 1963 in Houston, TX, Washington grew up in the southern city where he graduated from Willowridge High School in 1981. Recovering from a troubled adolescence (during an argument, he was shot in the hip at age 19), Washington went on to serve a four-year tour of duty in the United States Air Force before enrolling at Washington, D.C.'s Howard University to study drama. While studying at Howard, he landed a role in the Ntozake Shange play, "Spell #7." Relocating to New York City after college, Washington became one of the founding members of the City Kids Repertory, a local theater group designed to engage children in the dramatic arts. Pursuing his craft on the New York stage, Washington appeared in productions of August Wilson's "Fences," and Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth."

Making the transition from stage to screen in 1991, Washington made his feature film debut portraying a hustler in the romantic comedy, "Strictly Business," starring Halle Berry and Tommy Davidson. That same year, he debuted on television guesting on an episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990- ). Landing more substantial roles as the years went by, Washington went on to appear in the Spike Lee big screen comedy, "Crooklyn" (1994), and turned in an affecting performance as Mekhi Phifer's protective older brother in Lee's next film, "Clockers" (1995). On television, Washington showed his versatility by guest-starring on cop dramas such as, "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and "New York Undercover" (FOX, 1994-98), as well tickling the funny bone with an appearance on the sitcom, "Living Single" (FOX, 1993-98). Re-teaming with director Lee for two more films, Washington starred opposite Theresa Randle in the romantic comedy, "Girl 6" (1996) and portrayed a gay man on his way to participate in the Million Man March in "Get on the Bus" (1996).

After substantial roles in the loyal Lee's films, Washington continued to work on the big screen, taking on smaller roles in films such as the urban romantic comedy, "Love Jones" (1997); Warren Betty's political comedy, "Bulworth" (1998); and acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh's hit, "Out Of Sight" (1998). He went on to guest star on the quirky Fox series, "Ally McBeal" (1997-2002) during its first season as well as up the quality of his work by starring opposite legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood as a man on death row in "True Crime" (1999). In 2000, Washington was nominated for his first NAACP Image Award for his performance as an executive of an upstart television network in "Dancing in September" (2000). That same year, he starred opposite the ill-fated singer/actress, Aaliyah and martial arts star Jet Li in the action flick "Romeo Must Die" (2000). Shifting gears as he could so impressively do, he co-starred with William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell and George Clooney as one of five hapless burglars in the Russo brothers' comedy, "Welcome to Collinwood" (2002) and portrayed the first mate of an unlucky salvage team in the forgettable horror flick, "Ghost Ship" (2002). In 2003, Washington portrayed corrupt record producer Antoine Sartain in the flop, "Hollywood Homicide" (2003), opposite Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett. Though Washington's "Homicide" role was prominent, his character's ultimate fate (being thrown off a building by Ford) led Washington to reevaluate the types of roles he was being offered.

Then fate intervened. Cast as renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Preston Burke on the breakout midseason hit, "Grey's Anatomy," Washington found the career change he was looking for and the part of his career thus far. Though he was already a recognizable name with a solid list of credits, "Anatomy" allowed Washington to break out from the thuggish, corrupt characters he had often been cast as. He also enjoyed being one-half of a popular onscreen couple with intern Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh). An unexpected smash hit with viewers, "Anatomy" went on to receive numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations - with Washington's work on the series earning him the Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 2006. The success of "Grey's" also afforded him a new sex symbol status, when