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There’s only a few actors in Hollywood who can pretty much have any role they want. But among those select few, Denzel Washington is certainly one. For decades, the actor has been renowned as one of the most versatile, charismatic stars working today. And he has earned generations of devoted fans. But many may not know he met his wife during his very first movie.

Denzel Washington at the American Film Institute's 47th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington at the American Film Institute’s 47th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to Denzel Washington | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Denzel Washington is one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors

Since the 1990s, Washington has been one of Hollywood’s most consistent leading men. The actor has headlined everything from Oscar-winning dramas like Philadelphia and Fences to thrillers such as The Pelican Brief, The Manchurian Candidate, and American Gangster. Along the way, he’s also tapped into comedy, action, and even the works of William Shakespeare.

However, for all of Washington’s diverse filmography, the actor has established some ongoing collaborations. In particular, he has made several movies each with directors Spike Lee (Malcolm X), Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), and the late Tony Scott (Man on Fire). But the biggest relationship he’s made on the set is with his longtime wife Pauletta.

But the actor met the love of his life on his very first screen credit

Denzel and Pauletta Washington met on the set of Wilma, a 1977 TV movie about the life of track sprinter Wilma Rudolph (Shirley Jo Finney). The film was Washington’s first screen credit, preceding his big-screen debut by four years. In the film, the actor plays Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s husband. So in a way Washington’s role feels fortuitous, as it led him to his real-life wife.

In Wilma, Pauletta Washington plays Mae Faggs, another American athlete who competes alongside Rudolph at the the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. During a 1996 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Pauletta explained how her and Denzel’s marriage was fate. And the happy couple eventually married in 1983 and have raised four children.


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John David Washington has continued his parents’ acting legacy

While most of their children have an interest in the entertainment industry, Denzel and Pauletta Washington also have given Hollywood a new leading man. John David Washington started his career working on films like Devil in a Blue Dress and The Book of Eli with his famous father. But in recent years, the young up-and-coming actor has come a long way.

In 2018, Washington — much like his dad — starred in the latest from writer-director Lee. As Detective Ron Stallworth, he played a Black police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in BlacKkKlansman. That Oscar-winning movie set the stage for Washington’s starring role in Christopher Nolan’s 2020 sci-fi thriller Tenet. He’ll next star opposite Zendaya in Malcom & Marie.