Denzel Washington doesn’t recall Ellen Pompeo’s crazy story but says ‘it’s all good’

Earthshot Prize Awards

Denzel Washington covers the current issue of Variety to promote both The Tragedy of Macbeth and A Journal for Jordan, which he directed and produced. He was very chatty with Variety and the piece is absolutely worth a read for many reasons, especially the excellent quotes and stories about The Tragedy of Macbeth and Frances McDormand saying that she and Denzel are both “at the top of their game” and “Denzel is one of the best that has ever been.” I would never have put the two of them together, but God, it makes so much sense that they got along well. Unfortunately, this interview is getting a lot of attention because Denzel addresses the Ellen Pompeo story, where (in her version), she heroically bitched out Denzel as he was directing her in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Some highlights from the Variety piece:

The Ellen Pompeo stuff: But there’s one way in which Washington is definitely old school. You won’t find him on Twitter or Instagram — he prefers to keep the spotlight out of his private life and to stay off the gossip pages. That’s why it was so shocking when Washington’s name was splashed across the tabloids a few months ago. In 2015, he directed an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” the only time he’s stepped behind the camera for a TV show. As Ellen Pompeo recalled in a podcast in September, she clashed with Washington because he wouldn’t let her improvise in a scene. “Denzel went HAM on my ass,” Pompeo said, which led her to shoot back: “Listen, motherf–ker, this is my show!” When asked about the incident, Washington sidesteps the question. “No, no,” he says, claiming that he doesn’t recall that day. Then, with a slight grin, he adds, “But it’s all good.”

A story about winning his second Oscar: Washington recalls what it felt like to win his second Oscar, for “Training Day.” Shortly after accepting his trophy at the 2002 ceremony, he was approached by a high-profile Black actor who is younger than him. Washington doesn’t name the star, but the point of his story still sticks. According to Washington, the actor told him: “When you didn’t win for ‘Malcolm X’ and ‘The Hurricane,’ we saw those moments as if you can’t win, then what chance do we have?” Reflecting back, Washington says: “I never thought of it that way. I was only thinking of myself.”

Losing the Oscar for “Malcolm X” to Al Pacino for “Scent of a Woman.” But he understood it at the time. “It’s because Pacino should have won a bunch in the ’70s,” Washington says, referring to his performances in films such as “The Godfather” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” “That was his eighth nomination. How could Pacino get eight nominations and not win?” And rather surprisingly, the British voters across the pond have never nominated Washington for a BAFTA.

On Chadwick Boseman: “A man among men. He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job. I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes. We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.”

Who is the next Denzel? “What does the next Denzel mean? Does that mean there can only be one?” He lists actors such as Mahershala Ali and Jamie Foxx, who have defined themselves with their own successful careers. Washington smiles to himself, adding: “It doesn’t have to be one person.”

[From Variety]

The way Denzel shrugged off the Pompeo stuff and made it into a non-story… I mean, that’s classy as hell. Smart too – don’t give it any oxygen, don’t play Ellen’s stupid games. I also think his rationalizations for not winning certain awards are pretty smart and diplomatic. Sure, Denzel should have won the Oscar for Malcolm X, but he also understands why Pacino was owed that Oscar too. I agree with him about there not being just one Next Denzel, although I think Michael B. Jordan might be the Next Denzel. But there will be other guys who come up and blow us away and that’s part of Denzel’s legacy too.

Apple's special screening and Q&A of 'The Tragedy of Macbeth' at The Crosby Hotel

Photos courtesy of Instar, cover courtesy of Variety.

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26 Responses to “Denzel Washington doesn’t recall Ellen Pompeo’s crazy story but says ‘it’s all good’”

  1. Sam the Pink says:

    He just said “I don’t remember that Karen” and kept it moving. Haha.

  2. Misskitten says:

    “Rather surprisingly, British voters across the pond have never nominated Washington for a BAFTA.” Surprisingly??????

  3. Jayna says:

    There is no next Denzel. He is a one of a kind. I try to see every movie he makes. That’s what every actor is that stands out like Washington, someone with great acting ability but that certain undefinable quality to them that is unique to them and makes them stand out as an original.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      I do too!! I still haven’t seen him in MacBeth yet though. And I do love McDormand as well!! Denzel is in a class all by himself. How Denzel handled Pompeo, and her smug and entitled attitude, he was class all the way!! He and his wife have been married for over 30 years❤️❤️❤️ He is just a wonderful man, inside and out!! I adored him in Fences and have watched that several times!!

      • Ashley says:

        I seem to recall there are many rumors that he sleeps with his leading ladies. I think it was mentioned he slept with Julia Roberts. There isn’t much about his private life out there but I remember he moved down a few pegs when I read that. It was the first and only time I’ve heard rumors about him.

  4. Noki says:

    Denzel My Man,classy as usual. As for Michael B. Jordan,i really dont think he is that great an actor.

    • Case says:

      @Noki When I saw Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther, I thought he was the standout performance. And then I saw him in some roles outside of that and was like “Oh. Oh no.” He’s very handsome and seems like a nice person, but he’s definitely lacking in the acting department much more than I initially realized.

  5. Lauren Too says:

    That was such a classy answer. It’s best not to waste any oxygen on Mrs. “I have a black husband and black children”.

  6. Scarlett says:

    Love Denzel and the interview!

    Chadwick could have easily been the next Denzel. I still believe Denzel’s shoes might have proven too small for Chadwick Boseman over time. Sadly, the universe had other plans.

    • MissMarirose says:

      I think his answer makes a lot of sense because he was sometimes referred to as the next Sidney Poitier, which can be a tremendous burden he doesn’t want to put on someone else. Why be The Next ____ when there can be a ton of The First _____?

    • Stacy Dresden says:

      It is so unfair Chadwick is gone!

      • BothSidesNow says:

        I know. I hate cancer. I lost my favorite sister in July, and my non favorite sister pointed out that she hoped it wouldn’t fall on my birthday, but it did. She was in so much pain. I am just glad she was finally at peace. She had been waking up for a five days straight asking the nurse if she was still alive, to which when she was told yes, her response was the same each day, “ahh sh!t!”.

        I still can’t imagine a world without him. I have tried to watch his last movie, but I keep crying when I start to watch it. I am unable to keep my grief down. I don’t know how his wife is able to keep getting up.

  7. MissMarirose says:

    That response is reminiscent of Mariah’s “I don’t know her” and I love it!

  8. Case says:

    Class act. Very wise not to engage in her pettiness.

    He’s one of the few actors I really make an effort to see all the films he’s in. I’m really excited for Macbeth!

  9. Amy Bee says:

    Denzel’s response to that question about Ellen Pompeo was the best way to answer it, especially for a black man.

  10. Stacy Dresden says:

    Classy of him to say that

  11. Nancy says:

    “But there will be other guys who come up and blow us away and that’s part of Denzel’s legacy too.” This is why I stop by for the royal tea, but then usually read everything else you write too Kaiser. Your writing is smart AND fun.

  12. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    I know this is incredibly shallow to say, but Washington is the best-looking man ever.

  13. Truthiness says:

    Seeing Denzel gleefully doing Shakespeare on the Colbert show reminded me that he has two acting Oscars and he is one of a kind. I am dying to see Macbeth. I’d love to see him get a third Oscar because of his talent. It’s painful to see Leo be nominated for Don’t Look Up, he couldn’t even pretend to be attracted to Cate Blanchett or his wife in the movie! Leo was sleep walking through that role, a hundred men could do it better.

    • TIFFANY says:

      His interview with Colbert was fantastic. Not only the Shakespeare, but also the conversation about death.

      Colbert can speak on that topic, with any guest, so well.

    • Abby says:

      I dearly love Denzel.

      I didn’t realize Leo was nominated for anything for Don’t Look Up, but I think he did a great job in that movie. His character was anxious and awkward. I think the way his character behaved toward both women fit with who he was supposed to be. I enjoyed his performance–everyone did great, I thought.

  14. Jais says:

    A really good interview. Classy AF.

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