Many fell in love with John David Washington as the larger-than-life wide receiver, Ricky Jerret on HBO’s Ballers, a dramedy that tackled the world of the NFL. The character’s ostentatious behavior, coupled with Washington’s natural acclimation to the role, gave viewers the notion that Washington had done this before. Sooner than later, the show’s fans learned that not only had Washington went to the league but that he was also the son of Hollywood royalty, Denzel Washington.
More than 1000 people auditioned for Ricky. That Ballers role landed him the star of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, and subsequently, his role in Malcolm and Marie.
Although he has created a name for himself, John David is fighting hard to step away from his father’s 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.”
The up-and-comer knew he wanted to act from an early age. By 10, he could repeat his father’s lines in Glory. His ability to replicate his father’s voice allowed him to scold his siblings from the other room. Football was an outlet for him to be a person of his own. Every injury, yard earned, his ability got that for him; not his father, Denzel. However, John David could not outrun the family business or fate.
“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.”