5 Lessons from Denzel Washington

In the November 2012 issue of SUCCESS magazine, Oscar award-winning actor Denzel Washington opens up to entertainment writer Mike Zimmerman about the unforgettable roles he’s played (including a surprising television commercial) and working with his director friend, the late Tony Scott, who passed away weeks after this SUCCESS interview.

In creative endeavors, find a partner who brings out your best. The star of Crimson Tide, Man on Fire and Unstoppable cultivated a decades-long relationship with the late director Tony Scott, who Washington describes as “a genuine friend.” He told the press after Scott’s untimely death in August 2012, “Tony Scott had a tremendous passion for life and for the art of filmmaking and was able to share this passion with all of us through his cinematic brilliance.” They made five films together.

Never burn a bridge. Denzel Washington understands that as a working actor, the world truly is his stage. As such, Washington strives to  maintain good working relationships with all the actors, directors and producers he has encountered in his 30-year career.

There’s no such thing as being too prepared. When Washington prepares for a role, he immerses himself in it. He studies every aspect of it and becomes a scholar in that character, time period or historical event. As such, critics say the Academy Award-winning actor can “disappear” into a role and captivate audiences.

Be an actor, not a celebrity. Washington tells GQ, “Sidney Poitier told me ‘If they see you free all week, they won’t pay to see you on the weekend, because they feel like they’ve seen you already.’” As such, the 57-year-old actor maintains a low-key life with his wife of nearly 30 years and four children, ages 27, 24, and twins, 22.

Start small. Denzel once played the “grapes” for Fruit of the Loom.

Read more about Denzel Washington in the November SUCCESS cover story


Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for SUCCESS.com. Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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