John David Washington on Why He Became an Actor, and Not Telling His Dad Denzel Washington

John David Washington
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15: John David Washington attends the photo-call of 'BlacKkKlansman' during the 71st Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2018 in Cannes, France. (

John David Washington did not get help from his A-list star Dad, Denzel Washington, to get into the film industry.

According to reports, John David Washington kept his aspirations a secret from his father until he was cast in his first role.

The “Tenet” actor, 35, revealed in an Esquire interview, he decided to move from football to acting and only told his mother, Pauletta Washington, he was auditioning. He landed his first role on HBO’s “Ballers”.

“There was disbelief,” John David told the magazine of his dad’s reaction. He “kept asking questions like ‘For HBO? Like Home Box Office Entertainment? Who? Really? But what’s it called? The Rock?’ He just kept asking questions like ‘Is this real?’ I guess he had to check it with his agents to make sure it was real, and he was happy for me, and then he said exactly what I was going to do anyway, but ‘As soon as this is over, you gotta go learn. You gotta go learn how to do this.'”

Denzel Washington
HOLLYWOOD – JAN 11: Denzel Washington attends The Book of Eli premiere on January 11 2010 at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California. – Image (Photo Works / Shutterstock.com)

John David Washington tore his Achilles in 2013 and knew his football days were over. He had worked on the practice team for the St. Louis Rams and played for NFL Europe. While recovering from surgery and unsure what to do next, that’s when he got a call from a family friend Andrew Finkelstein, said the casting director Shelia Jaffe was now casting principal roles for an HBO show about professional football players.

“Now, granted, I’m on a heavy medication,” Washington recalled. “I’m feeling very, very loosey-goosey, if you will. I don’t feel the most confident. I’m pretty flammable at this point. I just felt very exposed. And he sends the script and I read it, and I’m like, well, ‘This is cool.'”

David Washington decided if he was going to become an actor, he was going to respect the profession and start by studying the art of acting. Finkelstein decided to set up an audition, saying it would help him get used to the constant rejection that comes from acting, and then sign the actor up for acting classes.

After several auditions, he landed the role of Ricky Jerret on “Ballers”. It was not until after landing the part he told his dad.

John David Washington started taking acting classes at HB Studio. He explained that he took beginner classes got help from a family friend, veteran actor Stephen McKinley Henderson. Henderson told Esquire Denzel wanted to know his son’s progress.

John David Washington Spike Lee
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 15, 2018: Actor Adam Driver, director Spike Lee and John David Washington attends the photocall for ‘Blackkklansman’ during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival (taniavolobueva / Shutterstock.com)

“‘Well, how’s it going, man? How’s it going? Does the guy got any chops? … I don’t want to encourage him if he. .'” Henderson recalled Denzel asking. “I said, ‘Well, man, I’ve got to tell you, he’s got some chops. He does. He definitely does.’ John David understood acting is not so much pretending as really doing and really being there with the other person. When he got it philosophically, he was off to the races. That was it. He was off to the races.”

John David has landed other major acting roles, including in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie “BlackKklansman” and he earned Golden Globe and Screen Actos Guild Award nominations. He currently stars opposite Robert Pattinson in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming major feature film “Tenet”.

More Project Casting Entertainment News: