Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington has given some of his best performances portraying notable real-life figures such as Malcolm X and Steve Biko. In 2001, the veteran actor gave moviegoers another memorable performance playing LAPD narcotics officer Detective Alonzo Harris in the Antoine Fuqua-directed film “Training Day.” However, during a recent interview, Washington revealed that he didn’t believe the role was written for a Black actor.
While talking to the Hollywood Reporter, Washington revealed that the Oscar-winning film was initially scripted along the lines of a “Lethal Weapon”-type movie, the buddy cop action project that famously starred Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.
“I don’t think it was written for a Black guy,” Washington said of his role in the interview with THR. “It was more like a plaid-shirt [wearing] guy with beer bottles in the back.”
David Ayer, who is white, wrote the script and many more, including “The Fast and the Furious” and the 2003 action crime thriller “S.W.A.T.”
Washington revealed that Fuqua suggested the film take a darker approach. “Antoine was the one that brought gangster to it,” the actor added. The veteran filmmaker started directing music videos in the early 1990s, including the 95 visual for rapper Coolio’s “Gangster Paradise.”
Fuqua later told THR that he connected with Washington over his “raw” performance, much like portrayals in the “gangster movies” he had watched growing up with his grandmother. Since then, Fuqua has worked with Washington on a few projects, including the “Equalizer” films 1 and 2, with the third installment set to start production soon in Italy.
The director was set to direct “American Gangster,” also starring Washington as Frank Lucas, but exited the film over “creative differences” with Universal, and Ridley Scott instead helmed the biopic. It would become his only filmmaking regret. “It breaks my heart just to say it out loud,” Fuqua admitted.
In a 2012 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Washington opened up about playing the “bad guy.” “It’s clichéd to say, but bad guys have more fun. You can get away with more,” he told the publication about starring in more villain roles. “In playing a real character who’s heroic, you’re kind of stuck. There’s only so much you can get away with. But [the] bad guy can say anything.”