April 2002
Q&A with Denzel Washington

Interviewed by Niambi Sims

Q&A with Denzel Washington

NS: Denzel Washington, congratulations to you

DW: Thank You

NS: This is real history especially with Sydney being here tonight. Youíre the first since 1966. Whatís going on in your head?

DW: What an honor it is to be on the stage with Sydney. Heís been a friend of mine for a long time, and he gave me very good advice about my career. He was in fact helpful in my doing the film Cry Freedom because I was offered another film when he suggested I turn it down and it was for a lot of money. And I got Cry Freedom, which was the first time I was nominated. Iím indebted to Sidney.

NS: How does it feel to be a part of history?

DW: I donít know if it has really sunk in. Iím already a part of history in a lot of ways and the whole thing with Sydney and all that. For me itís more personal because it raises a lot of issues. I feel closer to him now.

NS: I think youíve given new meaning to ďblack by popular demandĒ

DW: Well you know what, people use the word movie star and I like to say Iím hopefully an actor who is becoming more and more popular. I represent a craft and Iím trying to do my best work and Iím really pleased to see that many of the Academy are recognizing people for their work, not just the amount of money thatís spent on a film.

NS: In Training Day you played your first real villain. Do you think that gave you an edge?

DW: I think playing this role kind of showed people I could do other things. [But] I didnít do it for that reason.

NS: Did you think you would win an Oscar for this role?

DW: I didnít think it was that kind of role. I donít do a role for that reason. Certain roles have a certain vibe like Malcolm X and Hurricane, but it certainly turned out well.

NS: Youíve recently joined the Hollywood 20 Million Dollar club. Now that youíve won the Oscar does that mean you get a bump in pay?

DW: None of us are worth what we get. When I first started working in college, I started at $650 a week and that was good enough. My intention was to grow as an actor and to get better. As a result I have been recognized by the people and Iím blessed and that has become compensation.

NS: Sydney Poitier talked about how he is the captain of his own ship. During your career, how do you equate the way he has always called his own shots to your career?

DW: Well, I think actors always have the ultimate power, the power to say ďnoĒ. I think one of the reasons I am standing here right now is because of the roles that I didnít do. We do have control over what we do and if you compromise, you will be compromised. I try to have a certain level of integrity in what I have done.

NS: Youíve always put a lot of effort in your roles. You seem to spend a lot of time on character study. Can you talk about that a little bit?

DW: Well, you know, I fee like I have an obligation to the public. I try to work real hard and they are paying their hard-earned money to come in and be entertained and I am paid a lot of money to entertain. Iím here to work as hard as I can and the audience knows that when they come and see me, Iím working hard for them. Iím giving everything Iíve got.

NS: Is it better the second time around?

DW: I think itís more exciting the first time. I was just taking pictures with Halle Berry and she doesnít know where she is. Sheís gone! I know the feeling. Ten or eleven years ago as soon as I got off stage, I didnít know if I had actually won or just ran up there. It is surreal. This time I had a peace about me all week and all day. I told my kids win or lose; Iím going to go and celebrate with them!