(AllHipHop Features) Isaiah Washington is not a fan of the Hollywood movie system’s interest in profit over art. After appearing in over 30 films including Crooklyn, Clockers, and Romeo Must Die, the 50-year-old actor/producer is still taking on parts that reflect his interest in sharing thought-provoking stories rather than dictating mindless messages to the masses.
Washington's latest work, Blackbird, is director Patrik-Ian Polk’s interpretation of the 1986 novel by Larry Duplechan. The coming-of-age film centers around a Mississippi choir boy (Julian Walker) coming to terms with his sexuality. While same gender love plays an important role in Blackbird, the picture addresses several other topics such as child abduction, abortion, teenage pregnancy, church loyalty, marital separation, and father-son relationships.
“It’s not just about homosexuality in the Black church,” says Washington. “That’s the overall story, but that’s not all the themes that we address in 95 minutes so brilliantly, poetically, innocently, and tragically.”
Alongside appearing in the movie, Washington serves as a producer on the project as well. He was also the person who got the script into the hands of Mo'Nique who is making her return to the big screen for the first time since her Oscar-winning turn in Precious. Other actresses were considered for the role at one point, but according to Washington the production found the perfect match to play his wife “Claire.”
“Other people were given offers – Janet Jackson. She passed. She’s going to regret it after seeing this film,” Washington says. “I just couldn’t see anyone else playing that role but Mo'Nique.”
Washington takes pride in the movie he, Mo'Nique, Walker, Polk, and the rest of the cast and crew created. In his eyes, it’s an undeniably powerful film that could be a contender during next year’s award season.
“No one will be able to say it’s a poor film. They just may not agree with all the themes, but they’ll never say it’s a poor film. Never,” states Washington. “I hope one day Patrick-Ian Polk can stand up at the Golden Globes like Matthew McConaughey and go, ‘alright, alright, alright.’”
While Washington can visualize Polk taking home one of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s trophies in the future, he makes it clear those critics still focusing on the perceived homophobic statements he made at a past Golden Globes ceremony and on the set of Grey’s Anatomy will finally be silenced by Blackbird.
The controversy over the claim he called fellow Grey’s star T.R. Knight a “fa**ot” was brought up again recently when E! Online placed Washington on its list of “9 Other Anti-Gay Celeb Scandals.” The site published the article in response to Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s “anti-gay” remarks in an interview with GQ.
Washington’s reaction to E! linking him to Robertson is a rebuke of what he sees as the media’s lust for hits at any cost.
“They’re trying to make money of some stuff that’s seven years old, and got it wrong,” says Washington. “By the time this movie comes out, if I ever go back to Grey’s, which is possible, they’re gonna look stupid. And then they still gonna try and use my name to pay their rent.”
Blackbird is set to premiere at this year’s Pan African Film Festival. The Los Angeles event also screened another Isaiah Washington project – 2013’s Blue Caprice. The picture, inspired by the 2002 Washington D.C. Beltway shootings, earned Washington Best Actor nominations at the Gotham Awards and Black Reel Awards.
“[Blue Caprice] is an art film inspired by those events. You’re not going to learn any more or less about the actual John Allen Muhammad, because I didn’t want to make that movie. That movie is too toxic,” explains Washington. “All I wanted to do as an actor and a producer, to make it worth my while, is see how I can inject some empathy for the character.”
Besides the movies Blackbird and Blue Caprice, Washington is set to return to the small screen as well. He will be appearing in the upcoming CW sci-fi drama The 100. Washington plays the leader of the surviving members of the human race after a nuclear holocaust.
“I’ve been hired to change the face of the CW network,” Washington claims. “I couldn’t be more thankful to [President of The CW] Mark Pedowitzwho is the same man that let me go when he was ABC president. Begrudgingly, he let me go on Grey’s Anatomy, but now he’s put me on a show that’s probably more profound, more provocative, more uplifting and educating than Grey’s Anatomy ever was the day I left.”
Don’t call it a comeback, but Isaiah Washington’s star is clearly rising once again. As the Texas native continues to make major moves in front and behind the camera, still don’t expect for him to fall in line with the status quo in show business. Washington is more concerned with inspiring and uplifting people.
“Hollywood tells people what you should and what you shouldn’t see. They make sure you don’t see enough positive images of yourself, but you’re going to give up that money for Lone Survivor; you’re going to give up that money to their dream, so their kids can feel secure around the world, and don’t feel hated,” expresses Washington. “We really have what you need. If you want to grow; you want to have questions; you want to stop hating yourself, then come check out Blackbird.”
Blackbird’s world premiere takes place Sunday, February 16th during the closing night of the Pan African Film Festival.
For more information about the Pan African Film Festival visit their website www.paff.org.
Follow Isaiah Washington on Twitter @IWashington.
Watch the trailer for Blackbird below.
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