At one point after asking a question during my phone call with Isaiah Washington, there’s a long silence. Did the call drop? Did he hang up? I check in to see if he’s still there. He is, he says, but he was just thinking. “I think as loudly as I talk,” he replies. “My silence is just as intense as what I say.” No kidding. I only get three questions in to Washington before our time runs out, and yet the conversation lasts 25 minutes. The actor and producer can talk, and a response can touch on several things you were going to ask him and many others you weren’t.
He’s promoting “Blackbird,” a film he helped produce and one touching on a subject that’s played a key part in his career: homosexuality. Washington plays the surprisingly tolerant father of a deeply religious Bible Belt high schooler (Julian Walker) wrestling with his attraction to the same sex. The actor, who was bumped from “Grey’s Anatomy” over an alleged anti-gay slur he made to out co-star T.R. Knight, knows his words can get him into trouble, but loves to talk all the same. Here are some highlights from our chat:
Not just a film: “I think it should be a television series, like ‘The Wonder Years.’ I say that every day. I don’t know if the producers are listening to me. But I don’t think ‘Blackbird’ is a one-off. I don’t think it should be something that people see, say ‘What a great story!’ and then it disappears. I think that men of color should on HBO or Netflix or Amazon right next to all the other shows that are doing well. It has a lot to say.”
Does he still like acting?: “I’m more interested in taking on more producer positions. I’ve been famous long enough. In my mind I’ve been extraordinarily blessed as an actor. I’ve done everything I set out to do. I wanted to prove to the world that Denzel wasn’t the only leading man. I did that on ‘Grey’s.’ I have 62 episodes to show the world that there’s not only one African American man in Hollywood who can be sexy, smart, interesting, likable, unlikable and complex, like a human being. “
His next step: “I want to produce thought-provoking, mind-changing films. I want to bet the guy in ‘The Kid Stays in the Picture.’ If Richard Branson and Robert Evans had a love child it would be me. In my mind, in my ego that’s how I see myself. When people read that they’ll say, ‘That’s the strangest f—ing thing.’ I know! [Laughs]”