Isaiah Washington Back on His Own Terms

The ex-Grey's Anatomy star talks of a career U-turn with a meaty role as the D.C. sniper in Blue Caprice.

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IW: I research everything. The thing I got from Laurence Fishburne is always "think loudly" -- so if I'm thinking about all this research I did on him, the camera is just a mirror for that, and you are going to see that. And if I really did my job right, you are going to feel it. We don't have to talk about what he's thinking or where he's coming from. Obviously we could not put everything into the film, but if I carry it in my DNA, my body is going to respond.

One of the things about John Allen Muhammad is that he never really reconciled himself with racism. From my research of him, he never got called the n-word until he joined the Army. He grew up as an orphan in Louisiana in the late '60s, was illiterate and fooled everyone. He always fashioned himself as a Bourne Identity character, but he was denied that in the Army.

It seems that was the tipping point for him. In my opinion, that started his insanity. I read the book Scared Silent because I wanted to hear Muhammad's wife's point of view. It was very unfortunate circumstances that she lived under. He abused her emotionally.

TR: In one way, this is a comeback of sorts for you. I have to ask about the infamous incident in which some people maintain that you used a gay slur. What's your take on it now?

IW: I still love [my fans]. I gave you Love Jones. I gave you True Crime. If you got it wrong, then you got it wrong, but I'm not a liar. I said what I had to say, I apologized for what I apologized for, but you're lying on me.

If I did what they said I did, then how do [I] get to stay there [on Grey's Anatomy]? I never understood my people who were mad at me. If you do what they said I did, how do you go back to work for eight months afterward?

I sat in the back being gagged by my former bosses, not talking because I was nervous; I didn't want to lose the $20 million opportunity. So I am not going to talk anymore. You don't get to stay anywhere if it all went down the way certain people wanted it to be framed. So anytime I could have said anything, even now, it's like, why are you still talking about it?

[Some people may say] you're an a--hole, you're a homophobe. You can't be in this business for 25 years having those issues. It don't work -- period. So when I checked out of Hollywood, I checked out because y'all are stupid.

TR: I know you have taken some smaller roles here and there, but when you dropped out of Hollywood, what did you do?

IW: I've been working in Sierra Leone. I've been helping to rebuild a nation that was torn apart by the blood-diamond wars. I found out that my ancestry is from Sierra Leone, and I was made a chief there. I've been lobbying on Capitol Hill and dealing with saving real lives.