There isn’t anyone more fitting to deserve the first actor spotlight than Mr. Denzel Washington himself. To anyone who hasn’t seen a Denzel Washington film, then you are missing out honestly, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. Washington is one of those actors who are truly one of a kind. The way he brings each of his characters to life is something that every actor tries to master. I am going to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Denzel Washington film that I didn’t like. (Well, He Got Game wasn’t my absolute favorite, but everyone deserves a pass right?). With a career span that has lasted over 35 years, you can see why he is one of the most respected actors in the game. Let’s take a look back at some of his most iconic roles of the ’90s and ’00
Mo’ Better Blues
There’s a reason why Drake has a tattoo of Bleek Gilliam on his back. This is one of the smoothest characters Washington has ever played. He stars as Bleek Gilliam, a jazz trumpeter and leader of his own band. He is caught in a dare I say, entanglement between two women Clarke and Indigo. The Spike Lee film navigates Gilliam’s life as he tries to juggle friendships, life, and two women while dealing with the ups and downs of his band. With music by Brandford Marsalis Quartet and Terence Blanchard, this films as sonically pleasing as it is visually. Also starring Wesley Snipes, Giancarlo Esposito, Joie Lee, Cynda Williams, and of course Spike Lee, this film a great introduction into the range that Washington possesses.
No one, I mean no one can portray the great Malcolm X as Denzel did. Oh, the dedication! You couldn’t tell me that Washington wasn’t Malcolm X in real life. The mannerisms, the voice training, the raw, unfiltered emotion, the mastery of his craft, this was the film in my opinion, that truly put Washington on the map. In his second Spike Lee film, which also stars Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, and Albert Hall with cameo appearances from Nelson Mandela, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Bobby Seale co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Washington showed up and showed out. Nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, (one day we’re going to discuss how Hollywood truly messed him over), it was clear that everyone had taken notice and saw the true talent within. After this film, Washington was booked and busy, and he continued to deliver time and time again.
Training Day introduced us to a different side of Washington we hadn’t seen before, the antagonist. Some consider this one of his greatest roles and for good reason. You can’t mention Training Day without the infamous “King Kong ain’t got sh*t on me!” line. Washington stars as Alonzo Harris, a narcotics detective who trains rookie officer Jake Hoyt played by Ethan Hawke. The Antoine Fuqua-directed film has grit, corruption, and of course an incredible performance by Washington. Over the course of a 12 hour period, you see the rise and fall of Detective Harris, who has used his position to scare and intimidate people into doing what he wants for his own personal gain. When Officer Hoyt discovers this, he must make a decision between following the veteran detective or staying true to who he is as an officer. Washington’s portrayal of Harris was one for the books. It earned him the highly coveted (and long overdue) Best Actor Award at the 74th Academy awards. This film also sparked the debate of why it was this character that he won the award for when he had been nominated numerous times before.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the great Denzel Washington’s acting history. Believe me, I can go on and on about his films. Outside of his career, he is highly known for his philanthropic and charitable involvement to include the Boys & Girls Club of America, Keep a Child Alive, and the Fisher House Foundation. He is truly the epitome of acting royalty and continues to be a great example and pave the way for generations to come. We salute you, Mr. Denzel Washington.