Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, film director, and film producer. He has received much critical acclaim for his work in film since the 1990s, including for his portrayals of real-life figures such as Steve Biko, Malcolm X, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Melvin B. Tolson, Frank Lucas, and Herman Boone. Washington is a featured actor in the films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and was a frequent collaborator of the late director Tony Scott.
Washington spent the summer of 1976 in St. Mary’s City, Maryland, in summer stock theater performing Wings of the Morning, the Maryland State play, which was rewritten for him by incorporating an African-American character/narrator.
He also filmed a series of commercials in the Fruit of the Loom ensemble, as Grapes. Shortly after graduating from Fordham, Washington made his professional acting debut in the 1977 made-for-television film Wilma, and his first Hollywood appearance in the 1981 film Carbon Copy. Washington shared a 1982 Distinguished Ensemble Performance Obie Award for playing Private First Class Melvin Peterson in the Off-Broadway Negro Ensemble Company production A Soldier’s Play which premiered November 20, 1981.
On June 25, 1983, Washington married Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of his first screen work, the television film Wilma. The couple have four children: John David (b. July 28, 1984), who signed a football contract with the St. Louis Rams in May 2006 and has also played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League (John David also played college football at Morehouse) Katia (b. November 27, 1986) who graduated from Yale University with a Bachelors of Arts in 2010; and twins Olivia and Malcolm (b. April 10, 1991) (Malcolm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in film studies and Olivia played a role in Lee Daniel’s The Butler.). In 1995, the couple renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.
Washington is a devout Christian, and has considered becoming a preacher. He stated in 1999, “A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising.’ I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.” In 1995, he donated $2.5 million to help build the new West Angeles Church of God in Christ facility in Los Angeles.
Washington has served as the national spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1993. As such, he has been featured in several public service announcements and awareness campaigns for the organization.