Oprah: You've been working very steadily for most of their lives. Were you ever able to be one of those families that sat down and had dinner together?
Denzel: I joined in as often as I could. When my parents were together, my father worked a lot, too. He always had two or three jobs, so he was never home either. Children adjust. My kids knew that I was always trying to get home to be with them. I'd tell them, "You have school Monday to Friday, and I have work. We both have our jobs to do."
Oprah: You do what you have to do...
Denzel: ...so you can do what you want to do. Doesn't that line cover a lot of territory? Once your homework's done, even Dad can't say anything about you going to the movies.
Oprah: How did you meet Pauletta?
Denzel: We met at a hotel restaurant. I was just arriving to start work on the film Wilma [the 1977 television film biography of track legend Wilma Rudolph], and it was her last day of shooting.
Oprah: Did you immediately know she was The One?
Denzel: No—that happened over time. We met, but then we saw each other again at a party a year later. People who say they knew right away are lying! [Laughs] It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Oprah: Is Hollywood hard on a marriage?
Denzel: Hollywood gets a bad rap; it's just a place with some footprints in cement. I don't live there, I live in Los Angeles. But it's probably helped our marriage that we're apart a lot.
Denzel: Sure. If I were Pauletta, I'd get sick of me! You know, she gets used to running the house without me, and then here I come, messing things up.
Oprah: So there's a period of adjustment when you get back from filming?
Denzel: Yes. I have a strong personality. I can be a bully. Pauletta and the kids would get used to doing things a certain way, and then I'd arrive and start telling the kids what to do. It was a long time before I noticed her sighing as I did that. I've had to work on it.
Oprah: You know, earlier today, you said something that grabbed my heart. When I asked if you'd been nervous about directing this movie, you said, "Everything was already prayer-filled." How big a role does spirituality play in your life?
Denzel: The word "role" suggests a compartment. It doesn't play a role in my life; it is my life. Everything else is just making a living. If I get away from that idea, I get lost. This business is not who I am. Anyone with a spiritual base understands humility. When you start using the words "I" and "me" too often, you get in trouble.
Oprah: Or worse: When you start referring to yourself in the third person.
Denzel: How do people get to that point? "Denzel wouldn't do..."—I can't even finish the sentence! I just wasn't raised like that.