Playing a doctor on a surprise hit television show has its advantages. It’s called Star Power and Houston-bred Isaiah Washington has traveled the long road from humble origins to being one of the hottest actors of the decade. As Dr. Preston Burke on the ABC series, Gray’s Anatomy he has positively influenced viewers with his no nonsense style and cool demeanor. Here he divulges what it’s like to be one of TV’s sexiest men, working with Spike Lee and how he’s helping to heal his family’s homeland, Sierra Leone.
Lance Avery Morgan: Isaiah, what about being from Texas has helped you create the success you’ve already achieved in your career?
Isaiah Washington: It’s the willingness to survive – you get that from being from Texas. I like to think I am a man of results. I don’t need credit… I just want to see results.
LAM: You pretty much created Burke’s character, who is very results-oriented. What helped make the role your own that brought Burke to life?
IW: I think DNA has a memory. I didn’t know I was poor growing up in Independence Heights in Houston. But it’s like the whole world was moving so fast and I wasn’t a part of it. It enhanced my sensitivity, though. I’ll never forget the time I saw a girl being hit by a car in the neighborhood. The driver fled and I remembered feeling so helpless. And out of nowhere, people who normally may not have spoken to each other all gathered around to aid her. I knew right then that if I had been a doctor or a policeman, I somehow could have helped. So, to this day I’m always trying to help. My wife thinks I have a hero complex.
LAM: Before playing heroes, you were playing crooked cops and thugs, so what helped you transition between such opposing roles?
IW: There are about five actors the industry was supporting before me. I’ve found there is no meritocracy in this business other than just waiting for the phone to ring. If I continue to play positive roles, then it will happen. Like it has for Denzel Washington, Don Cheedle, Sam Jackson, and Wesley Snipes.