- Denzel Hayes Washington Jr.
December 28, 1954 (age 65)
- Actor, Film Producer, Film Director
- Pauletta Pearson Washington
- Lennis Washington, Denzel H. Washington, Sr.
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 has received two Golden Globe awards and a Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Glory (1989) and Best Actor for Training Day (2001).
Early life and education
Washington was born in Mount Vernon, near New York City. His father, Reverend Denzel Hayes Washington, Sr., a native of Buckingham County, Virginia, served as an ordained Pentecostal minister, and also worked for the Water Department and at a local department store, S. Klein. His mother, Lennis "Lynne", was a beauty parlor owner and operator born in Georgia and partly raised in Harlem.
Washington attended grammar school at Pennington-Grimes Elementary School in Mount Vernon until 1968. When he was 14, his parents broke up, and his mother sent him to a private preparatory school,Oakland Military Academy, in New Windsor, New York. "That decision changed my life," Washington later said, "because I wouldn't have survived in the direction I was going. The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them." After Oakland, Washington next attended Mainland High School, a public high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, from 1970 to 1971. Washington was interested in attending Texas Tech University: "I grew up in the Boys Club in Mount Vernon, and we were the Red Raiders. So when I was in high school, I wanted to go to Texas Tech in Lubbock just because they were called the Red Raiders and their uniforms looked like ours." Washington earned a B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977. At Fordham he played collegiate basketball as a freshman guard under coach P. J. Carlesimo. After a period of indecision on which major to study and dropping out of school for a semester, Washington worked as creative arts director at an overnight summer camp, Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Connecticut. He participated in a staff talent show for the campers and a colleague suggested he try acting.
Returning to Fordham that fall with a renewed purpose and focus, he enrolled at the Lincoln Center campus to study acting and was given the title roles in both Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and Shakespeare's Othello. Upon graduation he attended graduate school at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where he stayed for one year before returning to New York to begin a professional acting career.
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 Purple, 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.
A major career break came when he starred as Dr. Phillip Chandler in the television hospital drama St. Elsewhere which ran from 1982 to 1988 on NBC. He was one of only a few African American actors to appear on the series for its entire six-year run.
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 is currently playing with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League (John David also played college football at Morehouse); Katia (b. November 27, 1987), who graduated from Yale University with a Bachelors of Arts in 2010; and twins Olivia and Malcolm (b. April 10, 1991) (Malcolm attends the University of Pennsylvania). In 1995, the couple renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.