Oprah Talks to Denzel Washington
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?