Denzel Washington backstage at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards

January 30, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards took place on January 29, 2017, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

DENZEL WASHINGTON

SAG Award win:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

(“Fences”)

Here is what this SAG Award winner said backstage in the SAG Awards press room.

Denzel Washington at the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on January 29, 2017.
Denzel Washington backstage at the 2017 Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

Having been involved in this project throughout its Broadway incarnation to today does that make this an extra special moment for you to win this award?

Yeah, I guess so. Seven years ago, [producer] Scott Rudin came to me with the screenplay, and I realized I hadn’t read the play. I read the play. So I called him, and said, “I want to do the play,” and that’s what we did. And we had tremendous success with it. It definitely led me to believe that we could be successful making a film.

You’re playing somebody who had in some way different kinds of challenges. How did you leap from you to him?

You don’t know my past. You don’t know my past. We’re actors. You know you don’t have to kill somebody to play a murderer. So we’re actors. You try to tap into what you can relate to be yourself or someone you love or know. And in the case of August Wilson, it’s all in a play. He’s one of the most brilliant playwrights of our time, of any time, so it’s all there. All the clues are there for you if you if you dig deep.

And because we did it first as a play, it was scary. You don’t know if it’s going to work. you don’t know if you’re going to work in it. But about the third week of rehearsal, and because I had a big part in the play, I’m working with all the actors. About the third week, Viola [Davis] showed us where she was going in that big scene. And I was like, “Oh wait a minute. Okay, I better concentrate on my stuff with her because she delivers.”

What do you think about the huge fence our president wants to build with the Hispanic world, and how many fences did you have to go through to win this award?

This is what I think: I think we as Americans better learn to unite. I think we as Americans need to put our elected officials feet to the fire and demand that they work together or they won’t get back in office. You know, this age we live in, this accelerated Information Age, we’re getting further and further apart. We’re not getting together; we’re getting further and further and further apart.

Everybody can’t be right, but I think this is an opportunity, actually. You see how people are being energized and protesting and all that but I think this is an opportunity for us to look at ourselves as a country as they are we together really and are we holding our elected officials accountable to making sure that they’re working together, not just hey you’re on your side. I win what I win. You win what you win, because this is what is happening. And God only knows where it’s going. And “Fences” was a good movie too.

Only six actors and actresses have won an Oscar three times. What would it mean to you  to join that group?

You know, this was really a surprise tonight for me. I wrote some stuff down in case we were picked for Best Ensemble. I just assumed that wasn’t getting [this award]. I’ve been at this a long time so I prepare myself for rejection early on. I was just calm, so I really was surprised and unprepared, to be honest with you. But to be chosen by your fellow actors really is an honor.

We were all the same—some of this little more famous or more money or whatever, but we all basically try to interpret roles. So yes, to be in that company … I’m somebody told me also I think there’s only six actors who had Supporting and Best Actor [Oscars], and I think I’m one of the six. So, obviously, to be in that company would be amazing.

During your speech you were emotional as you spoke about  different actors. What was it about the “Fences” cast that really touched you that made you emotional?

When I turned 60, I realized this is not the dress rehearsal. You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. You can’t take it with you. The Egyptians tried. All they got was robbed. So what are you going to do with what you have? And everybody has something different to give—some money sometimes some patience, some love, some kindness. I get more joy of giving to others.

I’m here to support Viola and all the rest of them and August [Wilson]. I’m good. I’ve won everything that you can win. Man gives the award. God gives the reward. My mother taught me that years ago. And it’s taken me a long time to understand it, but that’s where I’m at I get more joy of seeing others do well.

 

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