John David Washington Basically Played a Black James Bond in His Last Blockbuster

Audiences have long clamored for the next James Bond to be played by a Black actor. There have even been numerous rumors that celebrities such as Idris Alba would star as Bond one day.

One other name has recently been added to the list: Up and rising actor John David Washington.  While he didn’t make it into the soon-to-be-released film No Time to Die (the 25th installment in the James Bond franchise), Washington did play the lead role in Christopher Nolan‘s latest blockbuster.

And some fans have pointed out that Washington’s big role was essentially a James Bond-esque character, complete with 007-style spy intrigue and covert action. 

John David Washington started his career in football

John David Washington
John David Washington | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

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Although Washington is the son of celebrity Denzel Washington, he didn’t actually start out to be an actor. In fact, Washington was initially a professional football player, beginning with the St. Louis Rams in the mid-2000s. But by the mid-2010s, Washington had transitioned to following in his father’s footsteps.

According to IMDb, one of Washington’s earliest roles was in the HBO series Ballers, and his first lead movie role was in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. That film caught the attention of Hollywood critics, earning Washington numerous award nominations (including a Golden Globe nomination). 

From there, Washington also starred in The Old Man & the Gun, Monster and Monsters and Men before getting his big break in Nolan’s newest movie.

Christopher Nolan’s long-delayed ‘Tenet’ was John David Washington’s biggest break 

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The Washington Post reports that Nolan watched BlacKkKlansman and was so impressed by Washington’s acting chops that he personally wanted Washington to be in his next movie. “Seeing [Washington] on screen,” Nolan told the publication, “and…the way [he] draws the audience in, it was very hard for me to get him out of my head after that when I was writing the script. He kept intruding.”

That script turned out to be for Tenet. But fans had to wait a long time to see Washington in his biggest role to date. The movie’s release was delayed numerous times because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Deadline. And Washington told GQ magazine that those delays added to the stress of an already chaotic 2020.

“The unknown of it all, that might’ve given me more anxiety than the film,” says Washington. “I was discouraged because of the yo-yo-ing of [the release date[. They kept pushing the release date, but they still said they’re going to release the film. I just wanted people to see this, I wanted people to experience the movies again.”

John David Washington’s ‘Tenet’ role reminds people of James Bond

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Tenet was finally released in the fall of 2020, and quickly become one of the year’s most successful films. But it also polarized critics and frustrated audiences, in part due to its convoluted storyline, time-warping scenes and purposefully muffled dialog. 

In the movie, Washington plays the lead character simply named the Protagonist. It follows the Protagonist as he gets recruited by a mysterious organization, teams up with various spies and assassins, and works to steal various objects from around the world in order to stop an apocalypse. 

And that storyline, along with Washington’s acting and stunts, reminds fans of one other famous movie character: James Bond himself.

“It’s great to see a Black leading man holding it down James Bond-style in a big spy movie,” reports GQ. And in his interview with the magazine, Washington agrees.

“Well, I’m glad you said that,” he said, going on to touch briefly on the idea of diverse representation in Hollywood. “That’s…a bonus, that’s a positive. And I hope we can encourage people like us to pursue our dreams in whatever industry we’re in.”