Denzel Washington is now known to be one of the most influential Black actors working today. As an actor, he has gained widespread recognition for the films Philadelphia, Malcolm X, Fences, and more. He is one of the few actors who have found success as both a blockbuster hero as well as a dramatic actor. He has also won the Academy Award twice.
He is best known for his role as the corrupt cop in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. The actor played Alonzo Harris, an LAPD officer who takes rookie officer Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Hawke under his wing. However, choosing to play the role did not come easy for Washington, as he was threatened by political organizations.
Denzel Washington: The Role Model
When Denzel Washington accepted to play the role of Alonzo Harris in Training Day, he had never been an antagonist. Washington was known for playing roles that people could look up to. He was an influential figure among the African-American population and was seen as an inspiration to many.
Washington played the perpetual good-guy in films such as Glory, A Soldier’s Story, Cry Freedom, and Philadelphia. He was the hopeful guy who made audiences feel hope.
He was not just a hero on-screen, but off-screen too as he was known for his charitable works. He sponsored a whole batch of college students to pursue a summer acting program in Oxford, one of which was the Black Panther himself, the late actor Chadwick Boseman. Boseman has credited Washington as his inspiration.
Denzel Washington was extremely loyal to his core audience i.e. African Americans. He once swore off kissing white actresses on screen as he felt that it would alienate the black women in his audience. With such huge responsibility on his shoulders, the fact that Washington chose to play a corrupt cop in Training Day did not go down well with certain political organizations.
Denzel Washington In Training Day
In 2001, Denzel Washington chose to play the sleazy and dirty LAPD officer Alonzo Harris in Antoine Fuqua’s action film Training Day. The films saw Harris evaluate Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt for his promotion as Hoyt sees the corrupt practices of Harris.
Black characters were often portrayed as outlaws and gangsters in mainstream cinema and the fact that Washington, an actor who was supposed to break these stereotypes would be playing into it did not sit well with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Actor Ethan Hawke mentioned in an interview that the NAACP once approached Washington on the set of Training Day to persuade him to not play the role. He recalled,
“The NAACP came to the set and said, ‘What are you doing?’…And Denzel, I remember him saying, ‘What, Al Pacino can play a bad guy? Gene Hackman can play a bad guy? I can’t play a bad guy? I’m an artist. That’s how I lead, not by being some dubious role model, by only playing squeaky-clean people. I’ll be a role model by being great at my job.’”
The actor made it a point to not listen to these threats and did what he wanted to do. As a result, Denzel Washington won his second Oscar, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for Training Day.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter