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Isaiah Washington On African American Oscar Contenders: “It Doesn’t Stray from the Formula”

Isaiah Washington On African American Oscar Contenders: "It Doesn't Stray from the Formula"

If Isaiah Washington, 50, is harboring any Oscar ambitions for his well-reviewed role in the Sundance hit “Blue Caprice,” which earned a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination and is in current release, he may have dive-bombed his chances via an incendiary Yahoo interview.

It may be that he holds no illusions about his prospects for this low-budget and timely thriller based on the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. After all, Washington talked poignantly to NPR about the widely reported supposedly homophobic slur that cost him his three-year slot on “Grey’s Anatomy” six years ago. On Yahoo he shares his contentious view of probable Oscar contenders “12 Years a Slave” and “The Butler”: 

“Killers and slaves, butlers and maids: it sounds like it’s going to be a great Oscar night for people… “That’s why I turned down ‘Hustle and Flow.’ Whoever said this role would possibly be nominated for an Oscar, like Morgan [Freeman] playing a pimp [in ‘Street Smart’]. Denzel [Washington] won for playing a slave crying one tear, and playing the most horrible human being that the world thought was the sexiest cop in ‘Training Day.’ It doesn’t stray from the formula.”

While he admires these performances, he told Yahoo:

“Octavia Spencer is known around the world as the woman who put feces in the pie. It goes on and on. And it goes right back to the first African American to win an Oscar in 1939: Hattie McDaniel for playing a maid in “Gone with the Wind…The narrative of slaves and butlers is interesting. I come from a family of domestics. My grandmother was a maid and a nanny. My father was a porter. The world has seen African Americans as slaves and maids and butlers.”

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Isaiah is a total jerk. He made a fool of himself and dominated the Q&A screened at AFI Silver and was soooooo rude.

not so sure

Many actors Academy Award for roles that weren't their best. Happens all the time. Was Robert Duvall's performance in Tender Mercies his best? Not if you know his career. Try comparing that to what he did in The Great Santini, which he probably should have won for the year before he won for Tender Mercies. Most people think the Academy gave him the award for Tender Mercies because they erred on The Great Santini. Paul Newman was nominated for Best Actor 12 times and he won for The Color Of Money, a marginal performance at best, compared to his work in such films as Cool Hand Luke and The Verdict. Robert Redford never won an acting Oscar, nominated once for The Sting. And by the way, we're forgetting about Sidney Poitier, who won a Best Actor Academy Award for Lillies Of The Field. Don't think he was a slave or butler or killer in that film. Nor was he a slave or butler or killer in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner or In The Heat Of The Night (films which he wasn't even nominated for, and should have been). It's ironic that Isaiah Washington produced a film in which he played Sidney Poitier. You guys need to do your homework. Again, yes more African American actors should definitely have won more Oscars, but to pigeonhole them as only killers, slaves, butlers and maids doesn't give them enough credit. In fact, it's dismissive. Was Isaiah Washington a killer, slave or butler on Grey's Anatomy? Has anyone seen Djimon Honsou's brilliant performance in the excellent film In America? What about Gabourey Sidibe's wonderful performance in Precious? Was she a killer, maid, slave or criminal in that film? What about all the great performances by Don Cheadle? Has anybody ever seen Hotel Rwanda? What about Cheadle's superb performance in Crash? In both those films he played men of great character who weren't killers, slaves or butlers. Denzel Washington was brilliant in Malcolm X, and he was also brilliant in Philadelphia. Again both films about men of great character. I'm pretty sure that Hollywood was entertained by those performances. And for the record, Hollywood is entertained by anybody playing criminals. Anybody remember Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs?


His point is proven if you look at which role Denzel Washington didn't win for (Malcolm X), and which role he did actually win for (Training Day). The life of Malcolm X is one of triumph, and development, and for larger themes in the world. Training Day was pure entertainment, no matter what they say. And Hollywood is entertained by blacks being criminals.

Not So Sure

Let's not forget Forest Whitaker. African-American actors like Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, etc. and many others have played numerous roles that are leadership-based characters of great moral character that go far beyond derogatory racial stereotypes. Should African-American actors have won more Academy Awards for their performances? Undoubtedly. Washington said slaves, killers, butlers and maids. He's wrong, and it takes away from the great performances and Academy Award recognition bestowed on Denzel, Halle, Forest, etc. But I hear what you're sayin'. The imbalance is still great.

Not so sure

Halle Berry wasn't a slave or a killer or a butler or a maid when she won for Monster's Ball. Neither was Jamie Foxx a slave or killer or butler or slave when he won for his Ray Charles portrayal. I get Isaiah's point, but in light of the GA situation, maybe he should check the controversial public remarks. He seemed to be back on a fairly good track. Just sayin ….


Well, he ain't lying about reality, is he?


Preach it.

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