John David Washington Discusses the ‘Magic’ He Felt Seeing His Dad Denzel Perform for the First Time

Not every child gets to see their parent on the job. But if your parent is an actor, that may be a different story.

John David Washington made a recent appearance on the PBS podcast, American Masters: Creative Spark, to talk about the first time he saw his father, legendary actor Denzel Washington, act on stage.

The award-winning actor reminisced about seeing his dad perform at Delacorte Theater in Central Park in New York City. “Richard The Third. I saw my father on stage for the first time. I was a kid and it was like a magic trick,” Washington remembered.

“He didn’t talk like that at the house and then he just got on stage and transformed into this other being with his words.”


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It was in that moment the 38-year-old knew he wanted to follow in his Oscar-winning father’s footsteps. He went on to receive his first role, according to Variety, as a student in a classroom in Spike Lee’s 1992  film Malcolm X, with his father playing the title role.

Growing up, he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was a star football player, even making it to the NFL, signing with the then-St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. On the podcast, he talked about how playing football compares to the world of acting.

“There is quite the correlation. In football, there is preseason so previews is served as preseason. Before preseason, there’s training camp and I feel like rehearsals is like training camp,” Washington said.

“So it was a lot like learning your playbook, learning your teammates and leaning the language. Developing a way of thinking and a way of being for this play.”

John David’s been bit by the acting bug.

He starred in critically acclaimed films such as Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie, Tenet and worked again with fellow Morehouse alum, Spike Lee, in the lead role in BlacKkKlansman. Washington just wrapped up the theater production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. Before taking on the role, Washington told podcast listeners some advice on how to see theater differently than film. “My pops told me its a full context sport,” Washington said. “And I tend to agree with that statement.”