Friday, June 29, 2007

Isaiah Washington -- not Dancing this September

Isaiah Washington needs to stop talking. He got into trouble for using an anti-gay epithet in an argument on the set of "Gray's Anatomy," then denying it, then using it again. And now the show has released him and he has given an interview to Newsweek, claiming that he is the victim, not the perpetrator of bigotry.

Washington can’t stop himself from doing what he’s been doing a lot lately: explaining away a situation that has already cost him a beloved job and could ultimately cost him much more...."Well, it didn’t help me on the set that I was a black man who wasn’t a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn’t speak like I’d just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime," he says. "I had a person in human resources tell me after this thing played out that 'some people' were afraid of me around the studio. I asked her why, because I’m a 6-foot-1, black man with dark skin and who doesn’t go around saying ‘Yessah, massa sir’ and ‘No sir, massa’ to everyone? It’s nuts when your presence alone can just scare people, and that made me a prime candidate to take the heat in a dysfunctional family.’’

"Gray's Anatomy" is one of the few major network television programs in history to be created by an African-American. It is an insult to the achievement and integrity of writer-producer Shondra Rhimes to suggest that she is calling anyone "massa."

And it is ironic that Washington starred in one of the finest, most thoughtful, insightful, and honest movies ever made on the subject of racism and compromise in show business, Dancing in September. There he played a network executive who at first supported and then undermined a young black writer's vision of a television program that would "keep it real," an expression that became the ironic catchphrase for the show's main character as the actor portraying him spins out of control.

Washington might want to sit down and watch that movie again, this time focusing on what happens to the kid in front of the camera who thinks the world revolves around him.

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