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‘I Like Seeing Other People Do Well’: Denzel Washington Speaks on the Joys of Directing Months After Actress Ellen Pompeo’s Comments

Denzel Washington may be hitting his stride as he settles even more into his role of director of various productions.

“I like seeing other people do well,” Washington said, when asked about his passion for directing at the premiere of his latest film, “A Journal for Jordan.” Acting you know you do your job but directing is more — what’s the word — it’s more community vibe, you know all the different departments. I just enjoy it.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 06: Denzel Washington attends the American Film Institute’s 47th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute To Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/FilmMagic)

The Oscar Award-winning actor is respected for his decades’-long career on the big screen and starring in highly acclaimed films such as “Malcolm X,” “Training Day” and “Fences.” But nowadays, Washington, 66, is becoming more and more known for his work behind the camera. In 2002, he marked his directorial debut with the film “Antwone Fisher.” Five years later, he brought “The Great Debaters” to the big and screen and by 2016 he was leaving his mark on television as he directed an episode of ABC’s long-running hit drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

The episode, “The Sound of Silence,” stirred plenty of buzz given it was the season-12 premiere and placed the series star Meredith Grey, played by actress Ellen Pompeo, in a life-or-death situation as she was being attacked by a patient. At the time, Washington was praised by members of the cast for a job well done. Actress Sarah Drew, who played Dr. April Kepner, described the veteran actor as a “powerhouse” and “easy going and funny” to work with on-set.

But this past fall, the narrative around Washington’s stint as guest director changed when Pompeo recounted her time working with him. Pompeo recounted how her improvising a line and giving a fellow actor direction for a scene caused things to briefly go left on set. 

“Denzel went ham on my ass. He was like, ‘I’m the director. Don’t you tell him what to do,’ ” said Pompeo. In response, she met Washington’s words with verbal fire. “I was like, ‘Listen, m———-r, this is my show. This is my set. Who are you telling? Like, you barely know where the bathroom is.’ ” She went on to describe the “Equalizer” star as being an actor who did not have his bearings when it came to directing for television.

Her comments were met with outrage by fans, which later prompted Pompeo to clarify the recollection of the on-set experience with the actor-director. “We didn’t get through it without a fight, but that’s actors for you,” she stated. “Passionate and fiery and that’s where you get the magic, and that’s where you get the good stuff. So, it was an amazing experience, it really was.”

The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, later reacted to news of the “Grey’s” star making headlines for her recollection of working with Washington. “Ellen is going to be Ellen,” Rhimes told “Variety.” 

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