Actor Denzel Washington says he carries lessons learned from Detroit chief Craig into police roles
Denzel Washington plays a police officer for the 13th time in the new crime thriller “The Little Things,” a role he began investigating more than 30 years ago during a ride with a former Los Angeles police sergeant who was defusing a situation sick man with a gun.
Although Washington did not mention the sergeant by name in a recent interview, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he was the LAPD officer who provided insight into policing as the actor prepared for one of his earliest cop roles.
In his new film, set in the early 1990s, Washington plays a shamed Los Angeles County sheriff detective who is rejuvenated after re-investigating a serial killer he had escaped years earlier. The actor discussed his latest role – and his views on cops, soldiers, and those who criticize them – with Yahoo Entertainment reporter Kevin Polowy in a video clip posted on Yahoo Thursday.
“You’ve played good cops in the past; you’ve played bad cops,” Polowy said. “Given the recent events and conversations about policing, it seems like a really interesting time to play law enforcement. How much thought did you put into such a role?”
The 66-year-old Washington replied that his opinion of the police was shaped while driving with an LAPD sergeant while preparing for the 1991 “Ricochet” as an LA police officer who falls in love with a woman he meets at work has been.
Washington said he learned a lot from doing a runflat with the sergeant he was driving with.
“We received a call from a man outside his house with a gun that was disturbed,” Washington recalled. “We stopped and did a U-turn past the house and we got there just before the house and he told me to sit in the car, which I would do – I didn’t get out.
“He got out and when he got out another car came up screaming and two young people jumped out screaming. It turned out to be their grandfather (with the gun). This cop defused the whole situation by just staying calm, but it immediately showed me how they can lose their lives.
“He didn’t overreact; he could have pulled out his gun and shot the people who drove up quickly; he could have shot the old man who was just upset and a little confused; I think he was suffering a bit from dementia,” said Washington.
Craig said the rideshare was arranged through a mutual Church friend.
“Denzel and I went to the same church, West Angeles, which is a mega-church, so I didn’t know him personally,” said Craig. “One of the deacons, also a LAPD officer, put me through with Denzel. He wanted to go with a LAPD officer to get background information for the film ‘Ricochet’.
“In the film, he’s an LA cop who meets his future wife at work. He wanted to know how to do that when you’re a cop and romantically involved with someone you meet on duty.” “Said Craig.” That happens a lot. He also wanted to know about other parts of the job. He asked a lot of questions.
“When we were on patrol, Denzel wore a baseball cap because he didn’t want people to recognize him,” said Craig. “We brought him to the station first, but we had to get him out of there because the women were all going crazy.”
Craig said Washington had more vivid memories than he did of the gunman incident.
“This was a unique experience for him and he has more memories of it,” said Craig. “There was a gun cry. I went there first and told him to stay in the car. When I got out of my car, another car stopped and some people started screaming. The situation was resolved peacefully.”
Washington said of the incident, “I will never forget what our law enforcement officers are doing from moment to moment and second to second. And I have the utmost respect for what they do, what our soldiers do; they sacrifice her life.
“I’m directing a movie about a soldier who makes the ultimate sacrifice, and I just don’t care about people knocking those types of people down,” Washington said. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have the freedom to complain about what they’re doing.”
Craig said he was “honored” that the 30-year encounter had such an effect on Washington.
“He was a really humble guy who really wanted to understand his role,” said Craig. “He just seemed like a really nice person. I was in Southern California for 28 years and met a lot of celebrities, and I can’t say the same thing about everyone.
“But to have Denzel Washington say I helped shape his positive opinion about cops … it’s a great honor,” said Craig.