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Denzel Washington Talks His Life, Career and Announces Future Project as Executive Director for HBO
By Brittany K. Jackson, Contributing Writer
Published September 23, 2015
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(photo Brittany Jackson)

To describe Denzel Washington’s introspective cool and au natural swagger as riveting would be an understatement. Recently, Dr. Todd Boyd sat down with Mr. Washington in an exclusive interview at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills September 17 to discuss Washington’s life, career and future projects in creative detail.

Raised in a home where his father was a minister, and playing sports was the focal point for entertainment, Denzel had never imagined being an actor. He only met his passion after navigating through life as a pre-med student, political science novice, and journalism major, which eventually led to his career in theatre and film.

As Dr. Boyd began to pose a series of questions about Denzel’s career, Washington exuded with humility, wisdom and a keen understanding of the acting world. When asked about his favorite movie role, Washington responded by saying, “I always say my next one because I like the process. I don’t sit back and reminisce.” And Washington’s creative genius doesn’t stop with his ability to move from character to character, Dr. Boyd also asked Washington about his cool demeanor, style and approach. “I work from the inside out. I don’t look at myself. I don’t have a style, he stated.” “I just do what I do. If I’m a bottle maker, I just make the best bottle I can make.”


Denzel also reflected on his profound roles as Malcolm X and Frank Lucas, describing the process behind characterizing these men and the varying eras in time. Denzel described knowing little about the Muslim culture before originally depicting Malcolm X in the play When the Chickens Come Home to Roost. It wasn’t until then that Washington read the Malcolm X biography, eventually improvising Malcolm X speeches with ease following the intense study of the noble figure. Frank Lucas, on the other hand, was a country guy with a city demeanor and the eyes of a killer, according to Denzel, who spoke of his experience spending time with Lucas to prepare for his role in the film American Gangster. “Frank Lucas. He was urban. He was city. He was laser. Let’s put it this way, he’s got a body of work,” Denzel stated noting Lucas’ corrupt lifestyle.

As a man of faith, Denzel also spoke about defending roles such as playing the bad guy in Training Day. “If you are a man of faith, you shouldn’t have any boundaries. We’re not absolute, we’re complex individuals,” he stated. “It wasn’t arbitrary that I ended up crawling like a snake. The wages of sin is death, and in order to justify living that way, he had to die that way,” Washington stated.

Washington then made a huge announcement about the opportunity of a lifetime granted by the August Wilson estate. Washington signed a deal with HBO to bring adaptations of all 10 of August Wilson’s plays about African American life to the big screen. “I am directing, producing and acting in one, and I am executive producing the other nine in a deal with HBO, one a year for the next none years,” Washington stated. “The universal stems from the specific. His [August Wilson] stories are universal but his themes are specific,” Washington continued citing his intrinsic interest in reproducing the plays.

Calling to attention Matt Damon’s recent comment about diversity in film and where it starts, Washington stated, “It starts with the writer. Some black people know what hot-combed hair in the morning smells like. Once you smell it, you never forget it. Some things are cultural differences. Write about what you know,” he continued, encouraging black media professionals and other predominantly stereotyped cultures to write their own truth, and tell their own stories.

Washington also gave a host of advice to young professionals who posed questions to the famed actor from the audience. When asked about whether to start an acting career on stage or on film, Washington stated that learning to act on stage serves as better training for a budding artist. “In film, it’s a 14-hour day, but a play is 2-3 hours of intensity. It’s a different energy,” Denzel shared noting the impromptu experience involved in theatre.

As depicted by the diversity in the audience, Denzel and his body of work inspire people from all walks of life. During the interview, a few audience members thanked Washington for inspiring them to pursue their passion in the field. After hugging one tearful fan, Denzel said, “You never know who you touch or influence. You gotta use what you have. It’s not how much you have. It’s what you do with what you have,” Washington uttered to the gazing audience.


Finally, when asked about the difference between an actor and a movie star, Denzel replied, “I don’t know because I’m an actor. It’s about the work. I’m an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job,” he stated. Extraordinary indeed.

Categories: Entertainment | Movies
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