Watching the White Supremacists in Charlottesville, I Was Embarrassed for Our Country; John David Washington Follows in the Footsteps of His Famous Father Denzel with a Starring Role in Spike Lee's New Film BLACKKKLANSMAN. He Tells LAURA HARDING Why Is Was Important to Tell the True Story of a Black Police Officer Who Infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 70s to Modern-Day America

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), August 24, 2018 | Go to article overview

Watching the White Supremacists in Charlottesville, I Was Embarrassed for Our Country; John David Washington Follows in the Footsteps of His Famous Father Denzel with a Starring Role in Spike Lee's New Film BLACKKKLANSMAN. He Tells LAURA HARDING Why Is Was Important to Tell the True Story of a Black Police Officer Who Infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 70s to Modern-Day America


Byline: LAURA HARDING

OF ALL the fathers to choose to follow in the footsteps of, Denzel Washington has to be a tough one. But John David Washington, the oldest son of the double Oscar winner and his actress wife Pauletta, is not intimidated about walking the same path as his famous dad.

In fact, he is so fearless, he is taking on the biggest role of his career so far as the star of a new film directed by Spike Lee, who has worked with Denzel on numerous films, including Malcolm X and Inside Man.

"I'm just happy to continue the tradition," John David, now 34, says with a smile.

"I actually worked for his wife [Tonya Lewis Lee] first. We did a film called Monster that played Sundance and she is the one who believed in me first.

ON THE "Spike had been tracking that and I guess he saw something.

BIG SCREEN "This is a guy I've idolised since I was a kid. He gave people of colour - men and women - a voice, a platform, and he chose me. I was beyond excited and just couldn't wait to get to work."

It was actually in a Lee film that John David made his acting debut, at the tender age of six, when he had a small part in the biopic Malcolm X in 1992.

So he did not even pause to think when the filmmaker called him about a role in BlacKkKlansman, the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.

"It was a phone call, very brief. He said, 'I got a book for you. Read it.' "I was blown away, obviously, just by the fact this really happened and that this was a true story."

In the film he plays Ron Stallworth, the first African American detective in the Colorado Springs police department.

One day, he contacts the KKK over the phone after seeing an advert in a newspaper and poses as a white racist extremist. To his surprise, he ends up being invited into the group's inner circle and recruits his colleague Flip Zimmerman, played by Star Wars actor Adam Driver, to pose as him and take his place in face-to-face meetings.

"This is a true story in African American history," Washington marvels. "A story that kind of slipped through the cracks.

"Nobody in my community was talking about this, nobody knows about this, it's not common knowledge. So I don't think anybody could be more responsible than Spike Lee and Jordan Peele [the writer and director of Get Out, who served as producer], to do this story. Nobody else could have done it."

As the investigation continues, Stallworth finds himself speaking on the phone to David Duke, who at the time was the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

This leads to some of the film's most absurd moments, even though John David is obliged to use extreme hate speech.

"Spike really trusted me and I trusted the process," he says. "The confidence was rooted in the preparation and the kind of confidence that I gained as an actor, he's responsible for. It's beyond measure."

But while there are moments of humour, the film draws stark parallels to the issues that are still plaguing the modern United States.

Indeed its release in the US was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville riots in Virginia, which began with white supremacists taking to the streets for a torchlight procession. …

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Watching the White Supremacists in Charlottesville, I Was Embarrassed for Our Country; John David Washington Follows in the Footsteps of His Famous Father Denzel with a Starring Role in Spike Lee's New Film BLACKKKLANSMAN. He Tells LAURA HARDING Why Is Was Important to Tell the True Story of a Black Police Officer Who Infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 70s to Modern-Day America
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