Denzel Washington Jr. was born on December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, New York, to Lynne Washington and Denzel Washington Sr. With several Academy Award nominations and two wins, moviegoers consider him as one of the best actors of the 21st century. Denzel got his big break on the television series “St. Elsewhere,” playing Dr. Chandler in 1982. So far in his career, he’s appeared in more than 50 films. He’s not only an actor, but he’s a producer and a director. Outside of his talents in the film industry, he’s also a philanthropist. Still, there’s so much more to Denzel Washington that people don’t know. Here are some interesting facts that you may not have known.
He Wanted to Be a Doctor
Instead of following his father’s footsteps and becoming a pastor, Denzel Jr. initially looked to medicine as his vocation. However, life had different plans. While studying at Fordham University in New York, Denzel took an acting class that would change the trajectory of his life. In 1977, he graduated from Fordham with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Journalism. Five years after graduating, he got his breakout role as Dr. Chandler on “St. Elsewhere.” Another interesting fact is Denzel Washington's grandparents named his father after the doctor’s last name, who delivered him in 1909 in Buckingham County, Virginia, Dr. Denzel.
He’s a Devout Christian
Denzel Washington Sr. was a Pentecostal minister. He wouldn’t let Denzel Jr. and his siblings watch secular movies or play sports in school. All the Washington children were allowed to do was attend church services. At one point, Denzel considered becoming a pastor and devoting his life to Christ. It’s no surprise that since his father was a preacher, that he made the consideration. Although God called him to a different path, Denzel still practices his Christian faith. He donated $2.5 million to the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. Denzel still reads his Bible daily.
He Met His Wife on a Movie Set
While filming the film “Wilma,” a movie about the story of American track sprinter Wilma Rudolph, Denzel met his wife, Pauletta Pearson. The couple got married on June 25, 1983. However, that marriage didn’t come easy. Pauletta declined Denzel’s marriage proposal twice before accepting the third proposal. The couple shares four children and has been married for over 35 years. One of their children, John David Washington, followed in his father’s footsteps and became an actor.
He Made History at the Oscars
Denzel Washington currently has nine Oscar nominations; eight for acting and one for Best Picture for his 2016 adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences,” which he directed, produced, and played the main character. Of those nine nominations, Washington has won twice; one for Best Actor in 2002’s “Training Day” and another for Best Supporting Actor for 1990’s “Glory.” Those two wins put Washington in the company of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, and Gene Hackman. His 2002 win for Training Day was especially monumental; Denzel became the second Black performer to win Best Actor. The first was Sidney Poitier for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field.” Washington is still the most nominated Black actor in the history of the Oscars.
He Ad-Libbed One of His Most Famous Lines
In “Training Day,” Washington plays a crooked cop whose ego makes him think he’s above the rules. Near the end of the film, gang members surround Washington’s character, and they’ve come for revenge. In this scene, Washington delivers a monologue and yells out, “King Kong ain’t got [expletive] on me.” According to Washington, that line wasn’t in the script, and he made it up. He said that with that character’s ego, he didn’t think that he could lose. Washington also mentioned that King Kong was one of the first movies he saw when he was younger.
He Helped Chadwick Boseman Become an Actor
Before he was the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman was a Howard University student whose tuition for a summer acting program was paid for by Washington. However, the two didn’t have a previous relationship. Actress and Howard University alumnae Phylicia Rashad reached out to Washington for an education donation to help young Black actors who’d been accepted to the program. Washington agreed, paving the way for the next generation of Black talent. Boseman didn’t reveal the connection until 2019, when he presented Washington with the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award. In that speech, Boseman said that there wouldn’t be a Black Panther without Denzel Washington. Boseman died in 2020 after a long-hidden battle with colon cancer.
A Beauty Parlor Prophet Predicted His Fame
On a 2006 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Washington shared a story of a woman in a beauty parlor that predicted his future. He says he was sitting in his mother’s beauty shop looking at himself in the mirror. Then, he saw this woman looking at him. She told him her name was Ruth Green, and she was allegedly named a prophet by the local church. After that, she took out a piece of paper and wrote down prophecy, 1975, and 28. She told Washington, who was 22 years old, that he would travel the world and speak to millions of people. Due to this encounter, Washington started to see his acting platform as his pulpit and preach spirituality in his way.
Denzel Washington’s career has spanned decades. Although he’s received accolades and achieved great things, he still keeps his Christian faith close to his heart. Some people feel that to make it in Hollywood, you have to give up your religion. However, Washington shows that that’s not the case. Washington is a prime example that it’s possible to live a life in Hollywood and maintain your relationship with God. He may not have become a preacher like his father, but he still uses his acting career to preach in his way. A beauty parlor prophet may have prophesied Washington’s career, but he got to where he is due to his God-given talent. If Washington continues to keep God first, he’ll continue to flourish.