Isaiah Washington, Taking On A Killer Of A Character
The motion picture Blue Caprice seems to be about a boy who's been abandoned by his mother and aches for a father. He meets a man who can no longer see his own children, and who longs for a son. They find each other — but what follows is anything but a happy ending.
Blue Caprice is a fictionalized tale based on the so-called Beltway sniper shootings that killed 10 people in and around Washington, D.C., in October 2002. (Though press and authorities warned the public to be on the lookout for a white van, it was eventually discovered that the murderers were using an old Chevy Caprice to stalk their targets.)
The film, directed by Alexandre Moors, stars Tequan Richmond, of the CW series Everybody Hates Chris, as the younger man and Grey's Anatomy's Isaiah Washington as his surrogate father. Washington tells NPR's Scott Simon that the film, whose story draws audiences closely into the lives of the killers, "really drives home that although you may have empathy for the characters, there's no room for sympathy. And that's not what we're asking for."
On creating a film based on the Beltway sniper attacks
You don't see my character actually hurt anyone. And I was very keen on that idea — that this was going to be more of a psychological thriller as opposed to glorifying or sensationalizing in any way, violence. And particularly coming on as a producer, I wanted to make very sure that we would handle the subject matter, although it's based on actual events, with kid gloves as best we could.
And I knew that if we blow this, then the film is doomed — and I'm particularly, personally doomed. And if we got it right, and [were] able to touch a human chord, then we can spawn some really profound dialogue about accountability, about responsibility of our leadership, militarism, post-traumatic stress disorder from former soldiers, how we're dealing with it, how we're not dealing with it — and just, violence in America, verbally, physically and otherwise.
On portraying a murderous character who's still human
Well it's just the same thing that I'm sure Johnny Depp and all the actors before me had to tap into: playing John Dillinger, whoever has played Jesse James, whoever has, multiple times, has played Al Capone. The history is there. Clearly these individuals I just named, for whatever reasons, in Americana are perceived as heroes. I'm not ... justifying my attempt to create a character that's clearly suffering from various degrees of mental instability.
We also wanted to challenge our community, the film community at large. This character is considered a monster? ... Other individuals portray — again, like the Al Capones, the John Dillingers, or even the Jeffrey Dahmers on film, it's "an extraordinary film," or "it's just a character." And we all know these people actually exist.
Obviously, although this man committed the crimes, in his mind it was justified because he was betrayed by the U.S. government. It was justified — like any criminal. They'll always say, "I didn't commit a crime; I was only at war. Or I was only fighting the system." We see this all the time.
On finding the character's "fatal charm"
We screened the film in Silver Spring, Md., and that was the defining moment. One woman said through her tears, that she felt that her experience has now been documented and validated — although it's not a biography. Another gentleman jumped up and said he knew another woman that knew [the Beltway snipers], and she still, to this day, will fight for the good parts of [them]. And he was challenging us, wondering why we weren't showing those conversations, and we had to remind him through his frustration and anxiety that we did do that.
We did show the character Lee [the younger man] feeding a baby, the day after he commits his first murder. We did show John Allen [Washington's character], telling jokes at a barbecue and having a great time. Just all the normal things you do in a day in the life of anyone. Everything was so matter-of-fact and so incredibly normal.
On his tumultuous departure from Grey's Anatomy
It was painful. It was unfortunate. And I did apologize. And the story was never right. Six years later, I'm still asked that question. Whereas six years later I've been virtually unheard, unseen, and maybe to some, not that homophobic train wreck that they were trying to make me out to be.
And I find it very interesting that here I am, playing a monster, and having [been] given a platform again to talk about humanity and larger things — I'm proud of my three-year tenure on that show. Dr. Burke still lives on that show, whether I'm there or not.
So the controversy I feel was necessary, although painful and confused. To this day, bigots try to embrace me and I shy away from them and tell them, "You've got the wrong guy." Then I walk in certain rooms like I'm the pariah, still today, like, "Well, why is he here? Why is he alive? Why is he still walking?" I have shot no one, I have hurt no one. I haven't spent one day in jail in the last six years. I haven't been in any rehab or busted for drugs. And there are many other people in Hollywood who have, and they still get the pass.
So I'm fine with me. My wife, my three kids, when I walk in the door, my child hugs me, and we have a great life. So that's my answer.
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