6 Lessons Denzel Washington's Actor Son Should Take From His Father's Amazing Career
Denzel Washington has quite a legendary acting career in Hollywood, consisting of many memorable roles and two Oscars, among other accolades. And this year, his son John David Washington has begun acting, starring in HBO's comedy series Ballers with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Denzel Washington said he's proud of his son being an actor and following in his footsteps. And during a Q&A event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Denzel reflected on watching Jon David on-screen in Ballers, saying, "It’s amazing to me, looking at him. I’m like that’s my boy."
Aww! Personally, I think there's a lot John David could learn from his father's immensely successful and storied career in the entertainment industry. John David is a 31-year-old former professional NFL football player (he was a running back for the St. Louis Rams and for Morehouse College during his NCAA days), and while his experience as a pro athlete might come in handy for his current role on Ballers as Ricky Jerret, a wide receiver in the NFL, he could also take some advice from his dad. Clearly, they're not strangers to discussing the business; John David actually made his acting debut in 1992 with a small role in his father's Malcom X.
Apparently, though, the younger actor had some reservations about taking on the same career as his very famous father. "I remember he said to me years ago ‘Dad your shadow is so big and I don’t know if I can,'" Denzel said during the Q&A. "I said, 'My shadow is big?' I said, 'You’ve ever heard of Kirk Douglas?' He’s like, 'No.' I said, 'You’ve heard of Michael Douglas right?' He said, 'Yeah, Michael of course.' I said, 'Google Michael Douglas and then come back and talk to me about my shadow.'"
It looks like it's advice that John David definitely took — and I think there are plenty more lessons from Denzel's amazing career that the younger Washington should definitely learn from.
1. Denzel Started In TV, Too
Starting off on a TV show — especially one on HBO — for John David is a pretty big deal. Denzel himself began acting in college at Fordham University and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. He met his wife — and John David's mom — Paulette on the set of the TV movie Wilma, which was one of his first roles. Later, Denzel starred in the medical drama St. Elsewhere as Dr. Phillip Chandler, which pretty much means he got his big break on '80s ER (and that makes him '80s George Clooney, right?).
2. Always Bring Your A-Game
Not all of Denzel's movies have been well-reviewed, but he always puts in a stellar performance no matter what. Remember the 2010 movie The Book of Eli? It was a film that critics were meh about, but Washington gives the post-apocalyptic role his all. In 2005, I saw him on Broadway in Julius Caesar, which got mixed reviews from critics, but audiences were enthralled by Denzel on stage and no one could take their eyes off him. It's a lesson in always doing your best no matter the material — if you give it your all, you'll get noticed.
3. Learn From The Stage
"I started on the stage," Denzel said at the Wallis event. "I prefer the stage...Get on the stage. You learn how to act onstage. Not in film, not in TV." Are you listening, John David?
4. Don't Be Afraid To Take Risks
Denzel's career is filled with so many different kinds of roles, because he's the type of actor who is willing to take chances. He famously played the antagonist in Training Day as a corrupt cop, and it won him his second Oscar — which made him the first African-American actor to win two Academy Awards. His career is incredibly varied, and he also occasionally steps behind the camera to direct. Currently, he's directing an adaptation of the Broadway play Fences , written by August Wilson for HBO, and he'll be helming nine of Wilson's other plays (known as the August Wilson Century Cycle) for the network.
And then there's Broadway, where Denzel won a Tony award for the stage version of Fences in 2010. See, taking chances — whether it's switching mediums or playing against type — is always worth it.
5. Learn From The Greats
Denzel said that when he was first starting to act, his main influences were Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and James Earl Jones. "I wanted to get into [acting] like anybody’s last name that ends with an O: De Niro, Pacino," he said at the event.
He even met Jones once, and realized he wanted to be just like him. "Once I got into theater at Fordham University, I saw James Earl Jones do Oedipus the King at St. John the Divine Cathedral," Denzel said. "I went backstage and he didn’t know me. I guess he sensed I was this young curious actor, and he let me hang out in the dressing room. I said, 'I want to be him.' I didn’t have that power or size that he had."
Luckily, John David has a legendary actor who is just a phone call away.
6. Remember Where You Came From & Give Back
Denzel is a huge movie star now, but he grew up wanting to be a sports star. He focused on playing many different sports at the Boys and Girls Club in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he grew up. "I wanted to play football," he said at the event. "I played baseball, basketball, football, ran track, everything sports growing up in the Boys [and Girls] Club. I never thought about being an actor at all."
And to this day, Denzel continues to give back to the Boys and Girls Club. He appears in their commercials and is a spokesman for the organization. He joined the Club's Board of Governors in 1996, penned A Hand to Guide Me about the positive influence of mentors, and won their highest volunteer honor, the Herbert Hoover Humanitarian Award. He's never forgotten his roots and neither should John David. The lesson here is that it's always good to give back.
I'm looking forward to seeing where John David Washington's career takes him, in Ballers and beyond.