John David Washington on BlacKkKlansman’s powerful message receiving Golden Globe recognition
As the Golden Globe nominations were announced on Thursday morning, the team behind BlacKkKlansman had reason to celebrate.
Not only did the film receive a nomination in the coveted Best Motion Picture – Drama category, but the stars of the Spike Lee joint were also recognized, with John David Washington earning a nod for Best Actor and Adam Driver for Best Supporting Actor.
Washington’s accolade is especially meaningful, as his father, Denzel Washington, earned his first Golden Globe nomination 30 years ago for Cry Freedom.
Inspired by true events, the darkly comedic yet harrowing BlacKkKlansman, tells the story of Ron Stallworth (Washington), the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who takes on a dangerous undercover mission to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
Below, Washington speaks about being recognized for his role, the most impactful moments of being a part of the acclaimed drama, and sharing the film’s message on a grand stage at the Golden Globes ceremony next month.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your involvement with BlacKkKlansman all began simply with a text from Spike Lee. Now having completed the project and hearing news of your nomination, what stands out to you in terms of your journey to this point?
JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON: The experience in itself. How we all came together as a family. This group from all different walks of life that Spike assembled. I’ve just become real friends with these guys. That’s been the biggest takeaway. I love Adam like a brother. Coming from sports (Washington briefly played in the NFL), a lot of times it’s like brothers in arms, like army buddies when you get back together after what you’ve experienced on the field together. I’m so happy that I feel like I’ve made some friends for life.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is watching the professional and personal relationship between Ron and Adam’s character Flip play out, making it not surprising to see you both being recognized for your work. How did you build that relationship on set?
I respect the man so much. He’s one of the great actors of right now. It was just an honor to work with him. He really seemed to trust me when we were working together. Seeing that chemistry develop onscreen, I loved it because it was real. I think there was some real appreciation for one another and there was love there. To me, it translated. It was enjoyable to see that happen.
Though the film has a lighthearted tone, the ending is chillingly poignant and sends one of the most powerful messages of any film this year. The Golden Globe nominations mean that millions all over the world are going to see the film mentioned on a grand scale; what does that mean to you?
That’s a heck of a set up right there. Can we talk about this tomorrow after you’ve put it that way? I haven’t fully been able to comprehend the scope. Obviously, it’s going to be a joyous occasion. I’m so happy to be representing Spike Lee. So many minorities and people of color in this industry have been standing on his shoulders. It makes me so happy that, after four decades, people still enjoy and connect with what he does. He’s a master of cinematic tone. There’s nobody like him. To be able to celebrate and represent the film on that grand stage with all the homies is going to be very nice [laughs].
There are so many moments in BlacKkKlansman that lead to uncomfortable laughter because they highlight issues that ring true today, but would you say it’s really communicating hard truths with audiences in a gentle way?
All people from different walks of life can laugh at certain scenes but also know how serious it is and be informed. There’s a story with a message being told but it’s entertaining. That is what I appreciate, that everybody can laugh at different things in this film but feel the same heartfelt aspects. That’s what’s so special about it to me.
Though at first, it appears to be this stylish period piece, the film ultimately provides commentary on many current issues that aren’t easy to digest.
It’s a period film and because of that, people can dismiss it and say, “That was those times.” But then you get hit with this current truth and then you start realizing how generational the resurgence of the Klan and how generational hate is and how we’ve got to stop the bleeding. With the right words, we’ve got to find common ground and a common language to stop the bleeding. We may not even be able to benefit from actual change, it could be the next generation that does but if we can stop the bleeding, that is progress.