On Thursday afternoon, it seemed as if the 40-and-under ladies of Twitter had made a shocking discovery. As it would turn out, everybody’s mama’s celebrity crush had created a “sequel” of sorts for a new generation of fans.
Or, to put it plainly: Heartthrob Denzel Washington has a grown-ass son. And he is finnnnnne, just like his daddy!
John David Washington, 31, is an actor who appeared alongside Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson in the HBO comedy series Ballers, which recently wrapped its first season. The show claimed the network’s best ratings for a comedy series in a decade, according to the New York Daily News.
John David Washington played Ricky Jerret, a flashy and troublesome receiver with a magnetic personality. Despite Washington’s scene-stealing performances, somehow the show came (in June) and went (in August) without most of the audience realizing he was Hollywood royalty, despite Hollywood.com’s announcement in a headline in October 2013 when J.D. joined the Ballers cast: “Denzel Washington’s Son John David Washington Lands First Major Acting Role.”
I guess most viewers just weren’t paying attention to that … or that the younger Washington sounds (often, but not always), looks and moves like his father. In fairness, this isn’t the same as the O’Shea Jackson (aka Ice Cube) situation, where father and son are practically identical. Depending on the angle, Washington looks more like his mom, Pauletta Washington, who has been married to Denzel since 1983. But still.
Ballers isn’t Washington’s first introduction to Hollywood. In 1992 he appeared in Malcolm X, which starred his father, who deserved the best actor Academy Award (he was nominated but didn’t win) for his turn as the slain civil rights leader. The younger Washington was credited as a “student in Harlem classroom” on IMDb, i.e., one of the kids who pop up from their chairs to yell, “I’m Malcolm X!” (He’s the first kid to say it.) Washington was also a co-producer for 2010’s The Book of Eli, which also starred his dad.
So, OK, some folks were a little late, but that’s probably not by accident. The younger Washington, who attended Morehouse College on a football scholarship and had a brief stint in the NFL, has a history of declining any attention that may come his way because of his famous father.
“Since I’ve known him, he has shunned away from media attention,” the younger Washington’s former football coach told ESPN in 2003. “He doesn’t want to get attention that the other guys on the team are not getting just because of his father. John David is a very humble young man from everything I’ve seen.”
Humble and apparently smart, too. Sure, Washington would have garnered more media—traditional and social—attention on Ballers by coasting off his father’s name, but he would also have been relentlessly compared with him, too. While I’m sure Washington wouldn’t hesitate to utilize his dad, and mom—who met her husband when they both performed in an off-Broadway play—for advice or introductions, I respect the younger Washington a little more for showcasing his talent instead of name-dropping his biological affiliations to get our attention.
Given the response to Washington on Twitter Thursday, enough to garner a New York Daily News headline, “The Internet Is Losing It Over Denzel Washington Son’s Inherited Hotness,” we’ll be seeing lots more of his pretty face in the future. Thank Denzel, and Pauletta, for that.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.