Los Angeles- Saturday, February 14, Rave Cinemas at Baldwin Hills hosted The 23rd Annual Pan African Film Festival. Charting not only sweethearts, but welcoming press, producers, directors, and actors from across the globe. Only this showtime wouldn’t consist of a Reel, but the REAL man himself. A conversation with Denzel Washington. Someone who is internationally known for his heart wrenching, teeth gritting, and Oscar winning performances.
The well respected sixty year old entered the theater around 1 O’clock that evening . He appeared to be in good spirits, very relaxed, and comely smiling. He wore a traditional dark grey tee shirt, black pants, and black shoes. The crowd rose to their feet in awe and graciousness as the Actor/Artist made his way to his appointed seat. Accompanying him was long time directorial friend and colleague Carl Franklin. Carl wrote and Directed “Devil in A Blue Dress” which starred, Denzel Washington in 1995. The two immediately opened the show with the teasing and joking of one another, resembling that of a brotherly relationship. This gave an opportunity for attendee’s to see a more comedic side of Denzel, which admittedly isn’t too bad. There was A strong need to inflict pain unto one another. This seem to have been the catalyst for the jokes, “Hit him where it hurts.” Although at some point Denzel actually tapped Franklin on the head with his mic. These guys clearly held heaps of love and history consequently setting the tone for an intriguing and spirit provoking interview.
Here’s what Denzel had to say:
Carl Franklin: What was your inspiration for acting?
Denzel Washington: … I don’t know. I grew up in Mount Vernon, he laughs. We all grew up in the same Boys and Girls Club. You know we had talent shows and things of that nature, but Idk, the star mumbles. You know my Father was a minister, my mom owned her own beauty Salon. Which hey, you know how the performances go inside of a beauty shop. I think everything in my life has prepared me for being an actor.
C.F: Was there anyone you looked to for inspiration?
D.W : Well, back then where I’m from, All of our stars were sport starts. That’s the irony. I wanted to play football, that was my dream and now my son is fulfilling my dreams. He’s playing in the NFL down in Miami. I’m very proud of him. We talk a lot. He realizes, like me, he has a platform and when God gives you a platform you must do something of purpose with it.
C.F: You and Pauletta have four children. I find it interesting you never invested in a nanny, like in Hollywood. What are your thoughts?
D.W: We weren’t raised that way. To hand over our children to strangers. We had support, Our families stepped in. My wife was Miss Carolina and was/is a skilled pianist. He leans overs chuckling “She was Slumming messing with me.”
C.F: “She’s still slumming messing with you.”
(The two share a moment of laughter as the crowd chimes in)
D.W: With our upbringing and past we both understood Sacrifice. We just weren’t raised that way.
C.F: You said as you grew up, Acting was not in your thought process. So how did it happen?
D.W: I got a job at the YMCA. We were trying to prepare the kids for something and I got on stage to be an example. I just begin to improv. I didn’t know what I was doing. Didn’t give it much thought. Then, later that day a buddy of mine, Miles Joyce, came up to me and goes, “Hey, man. You ever thought about acting?” Coach said I had a natural ability, but that natural ability would only take me so far. So I begin to study. I got enrolled into Theater Programs.
C.F: Who are the actors and players that you like?
D.W: I’m really not a movie buff, never have been. I can’t think of one. It’s a lot of young talent.
C.F: You have an interesting process? You did something I never saw before. It was during “Shades of LA.” Casting director was Vicky Thomas. I found a photo of “Easy and Mouse.” You took that photo and put it in your coat. Later you took that photo out, looked at it, then put it away again. What was that all about?
D.W: … Refers to his role in Glory. I didn’t know how to prepare. So I went in a room and prayed. I asked for help. Sometimes it’s not a technical thing. It’s not a practical issue. I had to tap into the spirit. Later, Here I am exploring and there’s this dark storage like room. I’m all alone, he chuckles. I walk inside and begin to notice compacted shelf like openings with hooks. Then this guys appears, one of the workers. He ask me if I knew what I was looking at? I had no idea what I was looking at. It had been the actual place where slaves were stored and chained. The hooks were still there. So, before leaving the guy gives me a hook.
[C.F. He didn’t give you no hook]
Okay, I stole a hook, he laughs. It’s the little things. It gives me a connection.
C.F: How do you choose your roles?
D.W: They Choose me. I tell actors, Saying “no” is hard, but I said No “a lot.” I was broke. I didn’t care about the money. “It’s just not me.” Thank God for my agent at the time, Rest her soul, but she would give me 150.00 every few weeks or so before she would let me take any role. I’m grateful for that. So, I’m not sure if those choices were all mine or also reflection of those surrounding me. For example, even my manager, God Rest his soul as well, he was a homosexual. Great man, but whoa would he be upset when scripts would come in asking me to be in a dress. He would say NO! You’re not doing it. He wouldn’t even let me read it.
C.F: I think that’s why everyone respects you so much, because you have carried yourself so well.
C.F: What’s your favorite movie that you have acted in?
D.W: I don’t look back, It’s for the People. Only once, if then, but it’s not for me. It’s for the People.
C.F: Any Roles that you may have passed on and now in hindsight maybe wish you would have done?
D.W: Yes, but I’m doing alright. I’m doing fine. Everything happens as it should.
C.F Admitts: I was alittle upset because my girl was digging you.
D.W: What can I say, She Still Digging me.
[Everyone laughs. These remarks are connected to the boxing role in Hurricane. Briefly mentioned]
C.F: Your works seems to be very subtle. (Compares other works to Training Day)
D.W: “Less is More.” I learned that on the streets. You are not concerned with the one that is loud. You know what he’s about. It’s the quiet one you have to watch.
D.W: Training Day, easiest role I’ve ever played.
[The mention of theater is tossed out]
D.W: Nine or Ten years ago, I got back into Theater. (Caesar, Raisin in the Sun, Fences) Theater is what has kept me acting. Film is not enough for me. Also, after my directorial jobs I grew to appreciate acting and actors more. I remember wondering why that guy is still in the trailer? What could he possibly be doing. Then Hey! I’ve been that guy inside the trailer. Laughs…
C.F: So do you prefer Stage now over Film?
D.W: I’ve always preferred stage. You do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.
(PAFF) An event dedicated to Black Excellence