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Denzel Washington is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of all-time. Although his own personal resume speaks for itself, one thing that commonly gets overlooked is how many other actors/filmmakers he has mentored. Click inside to check out a gallery of some of those people.

Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. was born in Mount Vernon, New York where he was raised by his mother Lennis, who was a beauty parlor owner and operator and father Denzel Hayes Washington Sr., an ordained Pentecostal minister and department store worker. At the age of 14, his parents divorced and his mother sent him to a private preparatory school (Oakland Military Academy) in New Windsor, New York. Washington ended up attending Fordham University where he earned a BA in Drama and Journalism. He worked as creative arts director of the overnight summer camp at Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Connecticut following a period of indecision on which major to study and taking a semester off. After seeing him perform in a staff talent show, his colleagues suggested that he try acting. He returned to Fordham that fall and enrolled at the Lincoln Center campus to study acting. Denzel then spent a year in San Francisco, California where he attended graduate school at the American Conservatory Theater. Washington’s journey then took him back to New York City where he would begin his professional acting career.

In 1977, shortly after graduating from Fordham, Washington made his screen acting debut in the 1977 made-for-television film Wilma which was a docudrama about sprinter Wilma Rudolph. His first Hollywood appearance came in 1981 film Carbon Copy. He got a major career break when he starred as Dr. Phillip Chandler in NBC’s television hospital drama St. Elsewhere, which ran from 1982 to 1988. It was extra special because he was one of only a few African-American actors to appear on the series for its entire six-year run. After appearing in several television, motion picture and stage roles, he starred as South African anti-apartheid political activist Stephen Biko in Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It wasn’t until two years later though that he won the prestigious award for his portrayal of a defiant, self-possessed ex-slave soldier in the film Glory. From that point on, his spot as one of the elites in Hollywood was solidified.

Over the course of his 40 plus year career, Washington has seamlessly delivered classic performances regardless of the role. On top of that, he has also given younger actors and filmmakers the keys to the industry also. He is truly a bridge between generations of Hollywood stars. Check out a list of some younger talent that Denzel has been a mentor to over the years. Slide in the comments to let us know your favorites and if we forgot any! Shoutout to one of the biggest goats!

1. Will Smith

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Will Smith: “He knew me years ago, I would go to Denzel for advice so he’s seen me through the years and he was just telling me how proud he is of who I’ve become and what I’ve become. He was saying that he felt like a weight was lifted off of his shoulders somehow.”

2. Derek Luke

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Luke was handpicked by Washington for his directorial debut Antwone Fisher (2002). Luke would go onto win an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male lead for his role in the movie. 

3. Dakota Fanning

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Dakota Fanning and Washington met while filming their original movie Man on Fire (2002) and recently reconnected in The Equalizer 3 (2023). Dakota’s words: “I would have done anything to be a part of this and work with Denzel again…it’s just a dream come true.” 

4. Chadwick Boseman

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At the AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards for Denzel Washington, Boseman told the story of how Denzel inadvertently paid for Boseman and his entire class to study acting for a summer in London. Washington would later produce Boseman’s last role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020). 

5. Glen Powell

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Glen Powell at 18 years old was cast in The Great Debaters (2007) by Washington himself. Denzel was so impressed by his drive and performance that he introduced him to the legendary talent agent Ed Limato (RIP) to represent him. Powell often cites how he owes his career to Denzel. 

6. Michael B. Jordan


Michael B. Jordan starred in Washington’s A Journal For Jordan (2021). 

“There’s also the personal knowledge that he’s given me, the times that he’s prayed for me, the time he listened when I needed to talk, the time that he and his lovely family have been there for me.” 

7. Austin Butler

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Butler worked with Washington on the 2018 Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Denzel later helped Butler secure the role of Elvis (2022) by giving director Baz Luhrmann a call to advocate on Butler’s behalf. 

8. Barry Jenkins

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Barry Jenkins on Washington:

“Denzel is kind of like the godfather. He reaches out, ‘Let’s go to lunch.’ You sit down for like three hours, he has this binder, he lays it out. ‘Do this, don’t do that. If you do that, then you do that.’ Just really loving and compassionate…” 

9. His Children (John David, Katia, Malcolm & Olivia)

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Denzel’s own children are now full blown members of Hollywood. Olivia & John David are both actors while Katia and Malcolm are producer/director/screenwriters.