Denzel Washington- In Conversation

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At 63 years old, Denzel Washington is not only a three-time Golden Globe, two-time Academy Award, one-time Tony award winning actor; he is now a director and Oscar nominated producer to boot and appears to be enjoying this new stage in what has, so far, been a lengthy and fantastic career.

I was fortunate enough to be an audience member for the National Theatre’s “Platform” series where they interview actors, directors and the like on their current work and open the conversation to a Q & A from the audience. Last night, Denzel Washington was in conversation, discussing his new movie “Fences”, with British director Pauline Randall MBE.

Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson, the film stars Washington and Viola Davies as a husband and wife being torn apart by a lost dream of glory which forces Washington’s character, Troy Maxon, to make a terrible decision. Both actors starred in the 2010 Broadway production and earned Tony Awards for their powerful performances. Could we be seeing them do the same at the Oscars for the motion picture this year?

What is very evident, is how passionate Denzel is about August Wilson’s work and he considers him one of the great American playwrights of our time, along with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. One member of the audience asked, “If Wilson was still alive,  would you ask him for advice and if so, what advice would you ask for?”. Washington simply replied “He is alive. He is alive within the pages of his play. If I feel like I don’t know where to turn to next, I look to the words in the play itself. The answers are all there”.

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Washington is clearly doing all the right things in the eyes of August Wilson’s estate. He was recently asked to take care of all ten of Wilson’s plays and, seeing it as a “responsibility and a joy”, is making this new duty his life’s goal.

On diversity in Hollywood, Washington commented that when people state that roles aren’t there for ethnically diverse actors, the responsibility lies with the audience to support these films. Their appetite ultimately decides the films that get made. “There’s no show, if you don’t pay for the business”.

The session was concluded with a discussion on the future of acting and what lies in store for the profession. He stressed the importance of disconnecting ourselves from the ever constant flow of information that we consume on a daily basis. “In the U.S, there have been radio presidents, television presidents, internet presidents, Blackberry presidents and now a Twitter president….what’s next? We don’t know”.

Finally, he asked for us all to look up. Washington fear is that we are all missing what is out there in the world. That sense of discovery which is imperative to not only actors but to everyone may disappear if we do not ‘look up’.

With that , he ripped off his microphone, said “I’m Out” and made a suitably dramatic (yet light-hearted) exit stage left. The audience were on their feet wanting more!

Being in the presence of one of Hollywood’s most admired, charming and decorated actors, the sensational Mr. Denzel Washington was everything I hoped for. Now I am itching to see “Fences” and connect his words with his art.

“Without goals, dreams are just dreams”.

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