Isaiah Washington is an accomplished actor, producer, author and philanthropist who has inspired audiences worldwide with his brilliant on-screen performances. Like so many highly successful celebrities, the 49-year-old has seen his fair share of peaks and valleys, including the tumultuous firestorms created by celebrity media outlets that few stars have been able to rebound from. But, that’s what makes his story so inspirational.
In 1986, Isaiah Washington had an epiphany while watching Spike Lee’s movie, She’s Gotta Have It and decided to trade in his engineering background for a career in acting. It was then that Washington formed a plan to work with Spike Lee within the next 10-years, and through sheer determination and a boat load of talent, he did just that.
By 1996, Washington had secured roles in four of Spike’s films; Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Get on the Bus, respectively. Having worked in film, TV, and theater, he says, “To be able to master 3 different mediums in a lifetime is very difficult to do. I’m still trying to figure out the differences between acting for television, as opposed to film on a 60 foot wide screen, versus live stage performances.”
Highly sensitive to the art-form/craft of acting, Isaiah understands the importance of telling a story that audiences will connect with. He states, “It’s important to know what my hands and body are doing. As an actor, you have to ask yourself, ‘is my body actually telling the same story that my mouth is telling?’ These are techniques that a lot of people are not well versed in, unfortunately.”
In our microwave society, many aspiring thespians are seeking instant success and financial reward. But when you speak to a veteran actor like Isaiah, you understand that it’s a 10 year labor of love that cannot be reduced to 6 months of overnight training. “I was told by my mentor that I couldn’t call myself an actor until I had 10 years of experience doing it. I’ve had people come at me wanting all 25 years of my experience taught to them in one day, because their desire is to get rich and famous fast. The sad thing about that is, only about 2% of all actors actually make a name for themselves and achieve longevity in this business.”
His film career isn’t the only thing that matters to Washington. In his book, A Man from Another Land, Isaiah chronicles his life’s journey and shares how he traced his roots back to Sierra Leone via DNA testing. Since discovering his ancestry in Africa, Isaiah has spent a great deal of time helping those who are less fortunate than he has been. Some of his work includes, helping to establish a school with his Gondobay Manga Foundation in Sierra Leone, and has become the first African-American to receive dual citizenship in the country from President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Today, Isaiah Washington is reinventing himself in the American entertainment industry. The actor kicked off 2013 with a bang thanks to the Sundance screening of Alexandre Moors’ Blue Caprice. Isaiah’s riveting portrayal as the infamous DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, received rave reviews after Washington’s on-screen performance left critics feeling sympathetic toward the sniper. Isaiah also served as an executive producer of the film.
In addition to his 2013 film endeavors, Isaiah has added outdoor enthusiast to his resume of expertise. His exuberance cannot be contained as he describes the overwhelming rush he experienced while on his first elk hunting trip. “My friend, Wayne Hubbard, took me into the woods and we harvested a 1,000 pound elk! We then hauled it off to a meat processing plant where it was processed into over 700lbs of gourmet meats. If you know anything about elk hunting, you know that some people go years without ever taking down an elk that size.”
But Washington’s urban adventure wasn’t just for sport; it had a much deeper meaning. “I just signed the most important contract of my life with Urban American Outdoors’ creators, Candice Price and Wayne Hubbard. What we’re bringing to the world next has been 13 years in the making. When the world sees us feeding the hungry in a way that has never been done on television, it’s going to blow their minds.” Isaiah explains, “The value in this kind of programming is important because it shows African-Americans in the outdoors in a positive perspective. This time, we’re not on TV hurting each other; instead, we’re being of service to the world.”
Congratulations to Isaiah on his new CW pilot, The 100.
Learn more about Isaiah and Urban American Outdoors at www.uaotv.com
(Originally published March 2013)