Denzel Washington
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Many fans of Denzel Washington know that he is a devout Christian who is unashamed and unapologetic about his faith. As the son of a minister, he grew up in the church. At a very young age he was told by a prophet that he would play an important role in spreading the Gospel around the world. From then on, he knew he had a special calling from God.

“I’m doing what God told me to do from the beginning,” Washington told reporters including Beliefnet. “It was prophesied that I would travel the world and speak to millions of people. It was prophesied at 20. I thought it [would be] through my work and it has been.”

When he turned 59, his mother told him that he would do good by a lot of people, but he had to do good the right way.

“I don’t drink anymore. I don’t do any of those things,” Washington said. “I’m all about the message to the degree that I know it and I’m unashamed and unafraid to share it.”

The choice to play Roman Israel in the legal drama Roman J. Israel, Esq. was influenced by his faith. The film which also stars Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo, tells the story of a defense attorney whose beliefs are put to the test when an unexpected series of events gets in the way of his mission.

Early into the project, Washington asked director Dan Gilroy “Where is God in this?” Through the filming process, Washington continued to ask Gilroy thought-provoking questions regarding faith in the film, some that he, even as the writer of the film, had trouble answering.

“Denzel asked me a great question, it was a brutal question, a week before shooting,” Gilroy said. “[He asked,] ’Why does God put Roman through this?’ ‘What is God’s plan?’ I had to go home and think about it.” Washington and Gilroy often shared their faith on set. They often started their conversations at 4am with a daily word.

“God put us together,” Washington said. “We prayed every day, we read the daily Word every day. Dan and I have been prayer partners in this whole collaboration…We were on the same page since day one. We know who we work for. We’re just trying to do our best work.”

Roman was really good as the man behind the curtain, Washington said. But many movie-goers will ask at what cost. Roman gives his life to a cause and through a series of events makes a decision at a major cost. Roman goes through a spiritual conflict in the film. The law is Roman’s religion to a degree and he loses his faith in it, Gilroy said.

“What I believe is that Roman had to transcend an earthly court,” Gilroy said. “There was no earthly court that would get him out of what he needed to do. Ultimately, in the end when he’s saying ‘Forgiveness. I grant that to myself,’ it reminds us that we need to forgive ourselves.”

This pivotal line in the film was one that troubled Washington a bit because of his faith.

“[Roman] says ‘Forgiveness. I grant that to myself.’ That was a line that always bothered me a bit,” Washington said. “You can’t grant forgiveness to yourself. You must ask for forgiveness. Granting it to himself was as far as he could go in the race.”

For much of his life, Roman was behind-the-scenes providing legal counsel but very much so in the shadows. He was really good as the man behind the curtain, Washington said.

“[Roman] stayed behind the curtain,” Washington said. “The God in it all is that he was behind the curtain doing all the real work and in one day his boss dies and he has to come out into the world now and he’s really not equipped. He is Old Testament. He knows the law. Not to say he doesn’t have faith, but he has faith in the law.”

“What I believe is that Roman had to transcend an earthly court,” Gilroy said. “There was no earthly court that would get him out of what he needed to do. Ultimately, in the end when he’s saying ‘Forgiveness. I grant that to myself,’ it reminds us that we need to forgive ourselves.”

Social justice and activism are major themes in the film. Roman is a defense attorney who stands up for his convictions. His desire to help people at all costs is one of the elements that make his character so inspiring. Washington has some words of wisdom on this very issue, particularly for the Millennial Generation.

“I would say to your generation, find a way to work together because this is a very divisive angry time we’re living in unfortunately because we didn’t grow up like that,” Washington said.

Washington really witnessed how cruel people could be on social media when a photo of him on set surfaced online and the comments about the way he looked got pretty ugly. The negativity he saw online concerned him. “A photograph came out when we were shooting the scene on the phone and I read the comments and it turned so mean so quickly [and] I said ‘Wow.’” Washington said. “‘I’m like, ‘How did we get here?’”

Washington encouraged young people to refrain from becoming addicted to social media, but when they use it, to do so to share God’s Word.

“I pray for your generation,” Washington said. “What an opportunity you have. Don’t be depressed by it because we have to go through this, we’re here now. You can’t put that thing back in the box.

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