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  • Writer's picture Llerraj Esuod

Denzel Washington: A Timeless Titan of Cinematic Mastery and Faith

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By Llerraj Esuod

From his earliest days in the theater to his most recent cinematic endeavors, Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. has consistently demonstrated resilience and determination, captivating audiences with unmatched magnetism and wide-ranging talent. With each role, he mesmerizes, confronts, and uplifts, imprinting an indelible mark on an ever-evolving era of entertainment where stardom is often fleeting.


The inaugural retrospective of the 28th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) honors Washington's noteworthy career and impact on the industry in which his legacy stands solid. 


"I say luck is when an opportunity comes along, and you're prepared for it," remarked Washington, indicating his consistent dedication to his craft, from studying the character's background to immersing himself in their worlds, a practice that distinguishes him from his contemporaries.


For nearly five decades, Washington has cemented his status as a Hollywood legend by selecting daring roles that allow him to showcase his unlimited range. For example, his role as Alonzo Harris, a corrupt cop in Training Day, departed from his usual heroic characters, earning him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2002.


His portrayal of Malcolm X in the eponymous biographical drama was a masterclass in embodying one of the world's most significant historical figures.


Washington's journey began in Mount Vernon, New York, where his parents, a Pentecostal preacher and beautician, instilled in him a strong work ethic and a deep faith.


Their profound influence and values, which he carries today, have outstandingly shaped his career, from fledgling performances on stages at Fordham University in New York City and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco to his transition to the big screen.


A breakthrough role in the 1984 film A Soldier's Story as Pfc. Melvin Peterson established him as a leading man, and his portrayal of the real-life South African activist Steve Biko in 1987's Cry Freedom confirmed it, earning Washington his first Oscar nomination. In 1989, his spellbinding performance as Pvt. Trip in Glory's timeless motion picture earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 


He brilliantly navigates between dramatic masterpieces and high-octane thrillers, like his portrayal of Robert McCall in The Equalizer franchise. His portrayal of African American characters, often with complex and nuanced narratives, contributes to the need for diversity and representation in the film industry, inspiring a new generation of actors and filmmakers.


Despite earning widespread critical acclaim and numerous awards, including three Golden Globe Awards, a Tony Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, Washington remains humble, refusing to romanticize his accomplishments. His down-to-earth disposition fosters a connection with audiences, making him even more relatable and admirable.


"My mother used to tell me man gives the award; God gives the reward. I don't need another plaque," he shared. 


Washington doesn't view his faith in God as merely a facet of his identity but as the cornerstone that shapes his career choices, public persona, and personal existence, influencing his decisions and actions. To that end, it is not uncommon for him to pray before every performance, and during interviews, he unabashedly speaks about lifting his eyes to the hills, from whence cometh is help.


His help comes the Lord.


"I read from the Bible daily, and I read my Daily Word," Washington said.


Even the titles of some of his films symbolically reflect the depth and value of faith in his personal life and work to become one of Hollywood's elites. They read like a sermon about a boy from Mt. Vernon:


When confronted with The Little Things and feeling Out of Time, faith becomes The Equalizer, a profoundly intimate balm in Gilead, offering a Safe House where the Inside Man can do exceedingly and abundantly above what he asks or thinks, freely giving Courage Under Fire to be Unstoppable, igniting a Man on Fire to Cry Freedom and Glory unto the author and perfecter of his faith that first shaped him inside and then out of his mother's womb. 

--Rebel Writes

Disclaimer: M.I.A. magazine initially posted this article on Jun. 7, 2024. reproduced it here because we write shit the way it's supposed to be told and written.


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