It takes some of us years to figure out what we want to do with our lives. Sometimes it’s hard to know the right career move with so many voices telling us what to do or what will make us successful. Unlike many, John David Washington always knew that his true passion was to be on the silver screen, he just took the scenic route to get there.
“I was hiding my love for it my entire life. I wanted to do this my entire life, what I’m doing now, acting, being in the movie business, but also was seeking for an identity. I wanted to be my own person, my own man,” the Tenet star tells Cori Murray and Charli Penn, hosts of Yes, Girl! Podcast.
And though his desire to make his own way in the world led him to football, it wasn’t long before success on the gridiron gave way to the hunger to find success on the silver screen.
“I started getting more attention nationally and it provided a way to pay for my school. So I felt independent. I was like, “Well, mission accomplished. I got a scholarship. I guess this is what I’ll do then.” But the entire time I was really masking my love for the art.”
Washington has garnered the attention and applause of millions across the globe for his role as a wayward football player in HBO’s Ballers and as the lead in Spike Lee’s 2018 feature film, BlacKkKlansman, in which he portrayed Ron Stallworth, a Black detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in 1970s Colorado Springs.
The sci-fi spy thriller drops viewers into a world where time can be reversed and a secret agent – Washington – must travel back in time to prevent World War III. And while the film is heavily steeped in time travel, Washington’s main goal has always been forward movement.
“This was super challenging because I’m used to moving forward. Everything is forward. You advance the ball forward in football. In this case, backwards is good, moving the other way, what I’m used to … Even blinking, talking, walking differently, inverted, was all different. So all of that was fun and new for me to put into a character, and it informed me who the guy is,” says Washington.
He can’t say enough about how much the role means to him regardless of how it may be received. John David tells Yes, Girl! that he left it all on the floor and had the time of his life while doing it.
“You never know how it’s going to be received, critics here and there, but I know that I gave it my all. I gave it everything that has happened to me in my life to that moment, I really appreciate, goods, bads and uglies. I do and I appreciate it because it brought me to that moment when we’re on Warner Brothers live and Christopher Nolan yelled, “That’s a wrap on John David.”
Listen to his full episode of Yes, Girl! to hear John David discuss…
…THE MOVIES HE SECRETLY LOVED IN COLLEGE
“I was really getting into Stanley Kubrick movies in college. I went to Morehouse College. I was looking at all these different films on my days off of football practice, and I’ve always loved it.”
…THE OTHER CREATIVE TALENTS HE’S HAD SINCE CHILDHOOD
“I was also painting in high school. Mrs. [Martin 00:03:24], my high school teacher, said I can actually get a art scholarship if I really wanted to. She believed in me that much. So I was always in the arts…”
…HOW HIS CAREER HAS HELPED HIM GROW
I’ve grown more confident because of men like Spike Lee and Christopher Nolan who believed in me because a lot of people didn’t and haven’t. This notion to having to prove something all the time, that wave is subsiding. That’s bad fuel. I don’t let that be the motivator or the driving force of my hard work anymore. I lead with love and more of a …When I say that love for myself, I guess, and love for myself means confidence and assurance that I can do it.”
You can hear the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to audio!