Words by: Sentwali Holder
John David Washington, maybe best known playing superstar wide receiver Ricky Jerret, on HBO’s Ballers, a beloved dramedy that tackled the layered world and antics of professional football.
Washington’s character’s flamboyant behavior, and natural charisma aligned with being a former NFL and UFL, he was able to convince viewers the authentic idea that he’s no stranger to the role. In 2006, John David went to the Saint Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. He played on the practice squad for two seasons prior to going to the UFL for four seasons. At the age of 28, an injury ended his athletic dream like so many other athletes succumbing to catastrophic injuries. But wasn’t long before Ballers fans realized that Washington not only went to the NFL as an undrafted free agent, but he was Hollywood royalty as the son of one the greatest actors of all time, Denzel Washington.
Even coming from Denzel’s lineage, John David is still fighting for the industry and fans to accept him for more than being his father’s son.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, he spoke more about it. More than 1000 actors auditioned for the role of Ricky. That big break landed him the starring role of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, and subsequently, his role in the pandemic released film Malcolm and Marie. Although Washington has carved out a real name for himself, he’s vying to truly emerge from his father’s very big shadow. “I don’t even know if [people] see me as John David yet,” he stated. “I’m still ‘Denzel’s son.’ I’m always his son. So it’s like, the day that they start seeing just me is the day that I can maybe better answer that question about celebrity. ’Cause I’m still not out of his shadow.”
Even though he’s a rising star and the lead in Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster, he was certain he wanted be an actor from a very early age. By the young age of 10, he knew his father’s award winning lines in Glory. He even had the ability to mimic his father’s voice which allowed him to scold his siblings from the other room. But sports and football was a way for him to create his own identity separate from his father’s legacy. However, Washington could not stay away from the family business to become who he is today, a star.
“Acting, I knew I always wanted to do,” he continued. “But I literally wanted to get some aggression out. The growing pains of being a teenager, the stuff I’ve experienced, being the son of someone. I could get that out here. I wanted to be productive with my anger. And I could use it as part of something positive.”