Black Panther is tied to Denzel Washington in more ways than one. T'Challa actor Chadwick Boseman revealed in 2018 that Washington paid for him to attend a prestigious summer theater program at The University of Oxford in England when he was studying acting in the late 1990s. He has since been able to thank the veteran actor and had the chance to do it again at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Gala. Boseman's co-star Michael B. Jordan also thanked Washington and explained how his work influenced his portrayal of the villainous Killmonger.
Some actors will go to great lengths to try and get the right emotion across on the big screen. Denzel Washington is one of those actors and he inspired Michael B. Jordan to do the same. Specifically, it was Washington's Academy Award winning performance in the 1989 Civil War movie Glory that had an impact on Jordan when he was preparing for Black Panther. He explains.
"I remember hearing stories about you and I heard stories that when you were huddled around the campfire in that film, Glory, you weren't supposed to be shirtless but you still had the scars put on your back, so you could feel it, so you could know that's what your character's been through. I tell you right now tonight brother, that's the only reason why Killmonger, when I played that role, I had those scars, even when I wasn't shirtless because of you, so I want to say thank you for that."
Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger has a chest covered in tribal scars to represent his kills, known as crocodile scarring. Denzel Washington's Private Silas Trip has scars on his back from his brutal past as a slave in America. One particular heavy moment from Glory shows the character being flogged and reveals the scars for the first time. Both actors sat through a lengthy makeup process even when their bare skin wasn't shown on screen to further identify with their characters.
Denzel Washington started his acting career on the stage in the late 1970s and came to prominence in the 1980s. The actor has tackled a variety of different roles over the years, winning awards, critical praise, and a level of respect many actors do not receive. Michael B. Jordan did his best to try and explain how Washington is able to continually pull out great performances. He had this to say.
"Denzel movies hurt, viscerally. You watch him onscreen and your heart races. You sweat. So what is it? What is it that inspires so many of us to try like hell to reach for that bar that you have set so high? If your answer is, it's his unique ability to portray the complexity of the human narrative through his work, you'd be correct. But what's also true is we all want that power. We wish for his wizard-like power to channel (that) human emotion, all of our feelings wrapped up into one big embrace, where we all feel something, together, where we all feel human. Because let's be real - in the mind-numbing, weary world that we all live in, we need heroes, we need superheroes like Denzel to remind us that we're all one people. That's your gift, sir, you unite us, you inspire us, and I want to thank you for leading the way."
Michael B. Jordan was not alone in honoring Denzel Washington at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Gala. Julia Roberts, Spike Lee, Antoine Fuqua, Jodie Foster, Chadwick Boseman, Mahershala Ali, Jamie Foxx, and more paid tribute to everything Washington as contributed to the world of entertainment. Entertainment Weekly was the first to report on Michael B. Jordan's tribute to Denzel Washington.