John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in BLACKKLANSMAN

The Reluctant Actor

As a passionate moviegoer I always find recommending my favourite movies to friends and family, a delicate task …. the films I love will not necessarily be as appreciated by them and likewise my least favourites provoke opposite reactions.

It can be awkward.

However some movies are easily put into what I call the « exceptional category ». Movies that are unanimously considered very good. Oscar winning « The Green Book » or « The Parasite » , to name a few, are perfect examples of movies that stand out. An original script, a talented cast and brilliant directing are the elements that make a good movie, great. It’s undeniable that movies can be compelling and inspiring and in some cases convey powerful messages expressing the human predicament. One such film that ticked all the boxes (no pun intended !) was Spike Lee’s powerful Blackklansman released in 2018. 

It tells the true story of a small team of police infiltrating a local klan chapter to try to stop looming violence. The great script and fine performances make this movie a little gem. The main role is held by the extraordinary John David Washington who is supported by first class fellow actor Adam Driver. Together with the rest of the brilliant cast, they carry the film which cleverly shifts from laugh out loud comedy to troubling intense scenes without missing a beat. 

Adam Driver and John David Washington in Blackklansman
Adam Driver and John David Washington

Today as you watch the current state of affairs of the United States, Spike Lee’s powerful movie resonates even louder. Anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd are entering their fourth week. Mr Floyd died while being restrained by a Minnesota police officer last month. Large rallies and protests have been held in several US cities, including Richmond, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The death of Mr. Floyd has spurred a wave of rage, anguish and protests across the country.

To understand what is happening today, one should to take a step back. Spike Lee does exactly that by using the recent past — the early 70’s— to offer a commentary on current events. He brutally confronts the truth with this film. The legacy of white supremacist ideology, racism in policing, and the ongoing widespread discrimination and segregation in American life then and now are cleverly intermeshed throughout the film. Sadly the truth of today is sadder and more tragic than fiction. 

The film ultimately positions itself as an interrogation of America’s racial politics, drawing not-so-subtle parallels between white supremacism of decades ago and the current alt-right movement.

Blackklansman has an outstanding cast led by the talented and oozing with charisma, John David Washington. He is witty and authentic in his role as Ron Stallworth, the first African-American officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 1970s. As I watched his performance, the first thing that struck me was the sound of his voice – that distinctive voice. I knew that voice. The nagging feeling of recognizing the voice but not connecting it to the actor on screen stuck annoyingly with me throughout the film until I finally put two and two together as the closing credits finally listed the cast – yes that’s it he is Denzel Washington’s son. They have the same voice. I was chuffed by the revelation.

A few days ago, by chance I came across the summer cover of Esquire magazine. On the cover featured an article : John David Washington, Spike Lee’s leading man and Christopher Nolan’s next action hero. 

ESQUIRE

This was the opportunity to learn more about the promising actor and his journey that led him to acting. 

Why the reluctant actor ? John David Washington overcame several hurdles before turning into a leading man in Hollywood. The first one, being the son of a household name, the iconic Denzel Washington. Growing up, the idea of becoming an actor was always in the back of his mind yet too daunting to explore. He turned his focus to football. 

John David began playing football at the end of elementary school. He fell in love with the competition and the attention. He was offered a scholarship and later invited to the St Louis Rams camp as an undrafted free agent. However his brief stint in the NLF came to halt because of the many injuries it caused and a torn Achilles tendon. Fate came knocking and this unexpected turn of events brought him to acting. He gave up football for acting where he got his major breakthrough, ironically, by playing football star Ricky Jerret on HBO’s Ballers. Without relying on any major help from his legendary dad, John David Washington made his own way in Hollywood. 

With the Esquire interview, the athlete turned actor, now 35, opened up about his latest movie, Christopher Nolan‘s TENET an espionnage thriller, where he is cast in the leading role. This new production has more action than any other film John David Washington has ever done.

In 2018, Denzel Washington told PEOPLE that he was glad his son’s NFL career was over because of the many injuries it caused.

“That’s my son, I love my boy and I’m just happy he’s his own man, he’s independent,” said Denzel. “He’s really good at what he does, and the fact that he’s been fighting to make his own mark, he didn’t want any help from me, I didn’t help him get onto Ballers or anything like that. »

An A list parent and an up-and-coming son, the Washington family is the epitome of these great multigenerational acting families. John David Washington may have come reluctantly to the movie world but you can be sure that he’s about to break into this stratosphere. 

Denzel Washington

A new star is born.