By now, if you’re a fan of John David Washington, you know the story of how a severe football injury (it was his Achilles) ended his sports career, leading to his foray into acting. It was a dream he previously had playing in the background of his mind, but as we look at performances such as BlacKkKlansman, it seems like Hollywood was always his destiny.
Esquire Magazine sat down with the Tenet star to talk about the upcoming Christopher Nolan film, his previous football career and also featured anecdotes from those closest to him. While John’s story is not simply defined by being the son of Black Hollywood’s elite couple Denzel and Pauletta Washington, it’s inevitable that his father comes up in an interview.
I mean, how can we get it out of our head when his voice is an eerie replica of his father’s?! As we imagined, he had one particularly fun story involving Daddy Denzel coaching his childhood football team.
As Esquire’s Kate Storey wrote:
When he began playing football at the end of elementary school, he fell in love with the competition and the attention. Football felt like his own domain, though his father coached his teams, sometimes borrowing, at least in Washington’s mind, from his most famous monologues for inspiration.
It was Washington’s second year of tackle football, in seventh grade, when he started to hesitate before contact. His dad took him into the backyard of the house and had him hit a punching bag again and again. It felt like all night, even if it was probably only a few minutes. It was like a scene straight out of He Got Game, in which his dad played the father of a star basketball prospect. And when it came time to play, and his dad gathered the team around on the sidelines to give them an impassioned speech to take them through the end of the game, the words sounded familiar.
This is from the Malcolm X speech, right? Washington thought.
However, John’s connection to the iconic film goes beyond inspirational football speeches. As we mentioned back in 2015 when he landed his first major role, John appeared in the highly memorable “I Am Malcolm X!” sequence at the end of the film—he was the first kid to stand up and utter the powerful phrase. I hope Denzel had each football player reenact that very scene following his speech, too. Imagine!
In the same good-natured spirit, Denzel was also recently seen assisting a homeless man in distress, updating police officers once they arrived and remaining until he was sure the man was okay and subsequently released.
Denzel is one of the greatest in terms of acting, but he’s also a pretty damn decent guy, too.