Today, he is a doting father of four who puts his family before all else. But not many know that his relationship with his father was far from idyllic growing up.
There are few celebrities in Hollywood who are as humble, talented, and beloved by all as Denzel Washington. His upbringing has played a huge role in shaping the future that he is living today. To this day, the 66-year-old actor acknowledges his mother for guiding him along the way. Today, he is a doting father of four who puts his family before all else. But not many know that his relationship with his father was far from idyllic growing up. Maybe that's why he never shed a tear for his father, who was absent for most of his childhood, even when he passed away.
Washington’s parents were very different people. While his father, Denzel Hayes Washington Sr., was a pentecostal preacher who ran two churches and worked another job, his mother, Lennis Washington, owned a beauty parlor. "My parents were like night and day. She’s urban, raised in Harlem. My father was just this spirit-filled man until the day he died, a country boy raised on a farm in Virginia," he shared. So it was not a surprise that the two filed for divorce when Washington was just 14. Their separation caused his relationship with his father to deteriorate even further.
As it is, Washington Sr. was rarely around, and after the split, he would hardly make an effort to meet his son, leaving him to be raised by his single mother. At the time of the split, Lennis sent him away to a private school in upstate New York hoping to keep him out of trouble. "That decision changed my life, because I wouldn’t have survived in the direction I was going," he said. The actor added that he was "mischievous" and that his "three closest friends did quite a bit of time [in jail] … decades," according to ABC News.
Speaking to GQ, Washington recalled the time he moved out of his mother's place and into his father's when he was 18. "And he kicked me out. He said, ‘You’re just bad.'" He also found that they had little in common. "The things I did, like sports, he wasn’t really [interested in]. Not to say that I didn’t love him like a dad. But we didn’t play ball, those type of things," he told The Week. So when he died in 1991, while Washington was filming Malcolm X, he did not feel a thing.
"He died in August. We started shooting around the time that he died. [pauses] I never shed a tear for my father. That sounds like a book or a song. I never did all through the funeral and all that. There was no connection," he explained. When asked, "What do you see of your father in you?" Washington said that he's his mother's son. "I’m more like my mother. She is the toughest woman." As a young teenager, he would get into trouble a lot but his disciplinarian and hard-working mother never gave up on him.
"My mother never gave up on me. I messed up in school so much they were sending me home, but my mother sent me right back!" recalled the actor of his guardian angel of a mother, according to Closer Weekly. The Equalizer star acknowledged his mother's contribution to his success saying, "What would have happened to me had it not been for my mother?" per Preaching Today. Even as a grown man, he did not stop paying heed to what his mother said.
Apparently, she is the one who inspired him to delve into his faith, something that helped him get over his love for alcohol. "She taught us right from wrong. My mother said to me when I was 59, 'Denzel, you do a lot of good. You have to do good the right way and you know what I’m talking about.' I don’t drink anymore, I don’t do any of those things," said the actor proudly. For Washington, his mother Lennis was the greatest influence in his life, and he thanks her to this day for the strength he has given him not his father.
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Rob Kim