We have all heard tales of struggling actors – waiting tables, sleeping on couches, and trying to survive in big cities before making their big break. Like many before him, Denzel Washington was a theatre actor on the East Coast before landing a role on the medical TV series St. Elsewhere. And Washington apparently made a vow, stating what he would never do again, if he became a star.
According to a report in Entertainment Weekly from 1995 – the year in which he starred in the superb thriller Crimson Tide and the sizzling noir Devil in a Blue Dress – Washington made a vow while he was a struggling theatre actor in New York. He said that if he became famous he’d “never wash another dish and never take another subway.”
But while on a trip to New York, Washington’s son John David, 10, really wanted to see the Big Apple’s famous subway system. What’s a dad to do? Says Washington said; “I walked down the stairs, said, ‘There it is,’ and we walked back up.” John David Washington would go onto to become the star of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.
The early 80s is probably the last time that Washington had to wash dishes or ride a subway, as he managed to transmute his St Elsewhere success into Hollywood success very quickly. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in 1989’s war movie Glory and hasn’t looked back since.
Denzel Washington most recently starred in Joel Coen’s first solo movie The Tragedy of Macbeth and received yet another Oscar nomination. He also directed A Journal for Jordan, starring Michael B. Jordan. Washington has only directed three movies in total, with the other two being 2002’s Antwone Fisher, 2016’s Fences.