Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington is one of Hollywood’s most recognized and universally beloved actors. Washington is known for mixing both passion and intelligence in his roles while always preserving a sense of dignity within each character.
This year the Academy Awards ceremonies came under scrutiny because for the second year in a row, no black actors were considered worthy of nomination.
The host of this year’s ceremonies, comedian Chris Rock, did not pull any punches when he called out Hollywood and its culture of non-white exclusion.
“Everyone wants to know: Is Hollywood racist? Is it burning-cross racist? No. It’s a different kind of racist,” Rock said.
“You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist, but not the racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.
Washington explained how Hollywood racism works in greater detail when he sat down with Times Talk and shared his thoughts and experiences on a broad range of topics centered around acting. Washington shared a story about one experience he had when he was brand new to the industry.
In the story, Washington was auditioning for the lead role in a movie about a black man who rapes a white woman and the angry white mob unsuccessfully tries to kill him in various ways. Denzel nicknamed the movie “the n**ga they couldn’t kill.”
He then recalled how as they explained the plot to him, the white producers seemed to find the concept amusing, laughing as though it was going to be a slapstick “black comedy.” That is until Washington, framed the film another way. What if a film was this offensive about Jewish people? Or another group?
The white producers, who were Jewish themselves, didn’t seem to find his analogy very amusing and to their relief, Washington turned down the role.
Here’s a video of Washington telling the story.