Priestly indie role for Washington


NEW YORK -- Isaiah Washington is set to star in the indie drama "The Least of These," playing a priest returning to the Catholic high school where he once was sexually abused.

His character replaces a missing teacher who molested several teenage boys and might have been killed by one of them.

It is the actor's first new role since derogatory comments he made about gays on the set of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and at the Golden Globes forced him into a much-publicized stint at a treatment center for psychological counseling.

"Least" marks the feature debut of writer-director Nathan Scoggins, a campus church founder, former Christian singer-songwriter and nondenominational Christian worship leader, who said that his wife suggested Washington for the role.

Scoggins approached the actor about a month and a half ago after reading an interview where the star said he wasn't being offered film or television roles after making his criticized remarks.

The director acknowledged that casting Washington might be seen as a risk but that the feature would take pains not to link pedophilia to homosexuality.

"We focus exclusively on the corruption of other priests who choose not to step in and say something," he said. "Isaiah's character stays razor focused on the situation and (on) not condemning a whole section of the population."

The director said the subject matter was one of the things that drew Washington to the film, budgeted at $1 million. "This is part of him moving forward and making restitution" for his actions, Scoggins said. Washington was unavailable for comment at press time.

The film begins a monthlong shoot in June in Los Angeles.

The screenplay won Scoggins the inaugural Art Within fellowship for screenwriters of faith last year. The film will be produced by James Duke and Number 3 Films in conjunction with producers Allison Calleri and Christina K.Y. Lee.

Washington is repped by Innovative Artists. Scoggins is repped by attorney Patrick Gorman.