Oprah: Isn't there some part of you that's influenced by the categories you're put in?
Denzel: Of course. Celebrity itself is an influence. For instance, it can make you more of an introvert; you can't just go places unnoticed. On the other hand, I'm probably more confident, because I don't have to worry about certain things. I try to remember what it felt like to really not know where I was headed or how I was going to eat. At the same time, I've always been a very positive person, and I'd like to think that some of my success came from that. People say you should have something to fall back on, but if I'm falling, I want to fall forward, not prepare to fall back. My religious instruction has taught me that what you believe and speak is what you become. If I constantly say that I'm "struggling to make it through," then that's exactly what I'll do: struggle just to get by.
Oprah: What role have you been most honored to play?
Denzel: Oh, I can't pick one. I've played Stephen Biko, Malcolm X, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Herman Boone, and now Melvin B. Tolson. I just enjoy the experience. But I do still remember the first time I landed in Zimbabwe to start filming Cry Freedom [the movie about the life of South African activist Stephen Biko]. I was alone, I was listening to Janet Jackson on my Walkman, and I was like, "Wow, I'm in Africa. What a life."
Oprah: When you first touched ground in Africa, did you feel a connection?
Denzel: It felt like going home.
Oprah: At this point in your life, what makes you happiest?
Denzel: Watching my children grow. Also, my wife recently said, "You love this directing thing; you're happy now." I'm reenergized. As a director, my job is to put great people around me and let them do what they do well.
Oprah: You sound like a born leader. In all my years of interviewing, I've never met someone who defines himself as a person who likes to see others succeed.
Denzel: I'm a regular guy. I'm comfortable like this. I may look at my Aston Martin—the one I bought during a midlife crisis—but I drive my truck.
Oprah: What does a regular guy do to relax?
Denzel: When I have time, I watch football—but I have to stay busy. I'm not good at doing nothing. I tried it. It's not healthy for me. I need to go somewhere every morning, even if it's just to the gym.
Oprah: What makes you the most proud?
Denzel: I'm careful about the word "proud"; I'm happy to have read the Bible from cover to cover. I'm on my second go-round—I read one chapter a day. Right now I'm digging John. He just had dinner with Mary, and things are about to take a turn for the worse. I tried to instill spirituality into The Great Debaters. Remember that old church prayer, God, we come before You, knee bowed and body bent, in the humblest way we know how?
We Hear You!