‘He’s Larger Than Life’: John David Washington Speaks on His Father Denzel Washington’s Legacy Casting a Shadow Over His Career

John David Washington learned years ago that he could not outrun his famous father, Denzel Washington’s, superstardom. Now, as an actor crafting a career on his own terms, John has again had to make peace with knowing his father’s legacy will likely continue to cast a bit of a shadow over his own. 

John, 38, always knew he wanted to pursue acting, but with Denzel being one of the most celebrated actors in Hollywood, he believed his best chance at making a name for himself was by playing football. He said it gave him an identity outside of his father’s. But, from his childhood teams, his time at Morehouse College and the teams he played for in the NFL, John could not escape being recognized as Denzel’s son.

“I have to understand I could have the best game, career … the headline’s always going to be what it is. So to try to prove something to somebody is a fool’s errand,” he said in a new interview on “CBS News Sunday Morning.” He continued, “I had a great game and [read] ‘Denzel’s son runs for this many yards and this many touchdowns. I realized then it was inescapable.”

Admittedly, in past interviews, John said he even went as far as lying about his father was when he would audition for roles. “I felt like there was no way people would take me seriously, even if I was good. They would always judge me. So I hid who my father was. I guess I was protecting myself,” he told “Mr. Porter” in 2020.

The eldest of his parents’, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, four children, John has since managed to hit his stride in acting. His credits include co-starring alongside Zendaya in “Malcolm & Marie,” starring in the mind-bending Christopher Nolan flick “Tenet,” and the Spike Lee joint “BlacKkKlansman.” His latest project sees him delve into the sci-fi meets romance film “True Love.”

While his career is really just getting started, John added that his focus is not to compete, or hopefully outdo his father’s legendary contributions to film. “I don’t see it as a reality for me. He’s larger than life. So no, I don’t think of it that way. I can’t,” said John. 

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