John David Washington was never actually offered the part of Detective Ron Stallworth in BlacKkKlansman.
Instead, Spike Lee, who previously directed his dad Denzel in four movies, “just said, ‘See you this summer,’’ Wahington recalled to me over the phone. “That is how I got the job.”
Not that Washington, who before “BlacKKKlansman” was primarily known for her recurring role in "Ballers," would have turned Lee down.
As Washington immediately recognized the opportunity and importance of the film, which tells the true story of how African American Detective Ron Stallworth infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, speaking over the phone with members, including its Grand Wizard David Duke, while sending in an undercover white officer in person.
“The fact that Jordan Peele and Spike Lee are on this project with this particular subject matter it was a no brainer to be a part of it.”
“It couldn’t have been in more responsible hands. This script, I don’t think I would have wanted to be a part of it if it weren’t for these men. I think they are the only men that can handle this subject matter and do it responsibly.”
“Because it could have gone off the rails if you had tried to hit buttons or be too suggestive or preachy or overtly artistic. They are great storytellers. They seem to have a passion for the process and the process of storytelling, which was appropriate for the subject matter. So I thank God he was involved in a major way.”
But while Washington admits that he “didn’t personally get to see or meet” Peele, he waxed lyrical about every other detail of “BlacKKKlansman’s” production.
First of all there was Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott’s script, which Washington was “impressed by for many different reasons,” but primarily adored because it “didn’t try to manipulate the story.”
“They didn’t try to add things that would make it a more cinematic experience but would take away from the film and the story. Because it is a true story and is supported by facts and by people that are actually living, we had our foundation that was there.”
“And that is sometimes harder to do as an artist. So I was excited to get stated once I got my hands on the script.”
Once he finally got in front of the camera, even Washington was surprised at just how “inclusive” the shooting process was, especially when it came to working with the legendary Spike Lee was.
“We were all on the same page here. What I learned from Spike is legend, because legend told me to trust myself. So when a hero tells you to do that, you do it.”
“And I’m glad I did it because it all worked out for the best. It was the most freeing experience I have ever had and the most freeing performance and the loosest performance I have ever delivered.”
“I have been wanting to deliver more loose performances, but I haven’t been able to, because of the different types of direction. But in this case, I was in, because a legend told me to do so.”
“BlacKKKlansman” is released on August 10.