(NEW YORK) — Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington is back on Broadway. The 59-year-old actor is starring in the revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play, A Raisin in the Sun.
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, the Flight actor talked about his Broadway history.
“That’s the foundation for me. That’s how I started. I believe that’s where you really learn how to act,” he said. “It’s alive. It’s a living thing. And you get an energy from the people.”
Originally produced in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun is set on the South Side of Chicago. Washington’s character, Walter Lee Younger, is an aspiring entrepreneur struggling with the limited opportunities for African Americans in the work force.
The actor explained the character of Walter Lee Younger to Roberts. “He’s hungry. As a driver he’s taking his boss to places that other African Americans or colored people didn’t get to see in those days. So he’s got a taste of it but he’s not a part of it,” Washington said.
A Raisin in the Sun was the first play ever written by an African American to be produced on Broadway and the big screen. The title is based on a line from the poem “Harlem,” in which the poet Langston Hughes contemplates what could happen as a result of dreams being deferred.
The 1961 film starred Sidney Poitier, and Washington knows that he has big shoes to fill. Calling Poitier “an institution,” Washington also acknowledged being “star-struck.”
“Well, you know, I spent some time with him in the last couple of months,” he said. “I’ve been stopping by his house. He’s a character. And he’s a very sweet man. A gentleman.”
Washington isn’t the only talent in his family. He and his wife, Pauletta, raised four children to pursue careers in the arts.
“They are film buffs. They are real movie people,” he said of his children, John David, Katia, and twins Malcolm and Olivia. “So they just all found their way there on their own. We didn’t push anybody into the business. Two are behind the camera and two are in front of the camera.”
Washington previously appeared on Broadway in Julius Caesar and Fences. He won a Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a play for his work in Fences.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Media Relations
Jim Bennett, Deseret News