Denzel Washington talks playing law enforcement characters amid scrutiny in America, denounces police critics

The actor has appeared as a cop in films like 'Training Day' and 'Inside Man'

Denzel Washington shared his thoughts on playing law enforcement characters amid heightened scrutiny about policing in America.

The 66-year-old actor has portrayed several law enforcement characters throughout his career including valorous ones in films like "Virtuosity," "Out of Time" and "Inside Man" as well as more nefarious cops in films like "Training Day." He’ll play another cop in the movie "The Little Things" set for release later this month. 

At the moment conversations of police brutality and effectiveness sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement have led to shows like "Cops" and "Live P.D." getting pulled from the air. As a result, Yahoo Entertainment asked the legendary actor how he feels about portraying law enforcement in a climate in which the Black community isn’t keen to see them glorified on screen. 

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"I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do, [people] that sacrifice their lives," Washington told the outlet. "I just don’t care for people who put those kind of people down. If it weren’t for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do."

Denzel Washington said he doesn't like critics of law enforcement.

Denzel Washington said he doesn't like critics of law enforcement. (Edward Berthelot/GC Images)

Washington, who has previously played Black revolutionaries like Malcolm X and Steve Biko, also shared a story with the outlet about the day he learned this respect for police when he discovered first-hand how difficult the day-to-day life of an officer can be.

Like many actors, Washington went on a ride-along while researching his role in the movie "Ricochet." 

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"I went out on call with a sergeant. We got a call of a man outside his house with a rifle that was distraught. We pulled up and did a U-turn past the house and came up short of the house. He told me to sit in the car, which I was gonna do. I wasn’t getting out," he said with a laugh. "He got out. As he got out, another car came screaming up and two young people jumped out screaming. As it turned out, it was their grandfather. This policeman defused the entire situation by just remaining calm."

He went on to note that not only could the officer have been hurt by any of the three subjects, but he could have overreacted and ended up hurting them.

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Denzel Washington spoke out about playing law enforcement characters.

Denzel Washington spoke out about playing law enforcement characters. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)

Washington continued: "But it showed me in an instant how they can lose their life… He didn’t overreact. He could’ve pulled his gun out and shot the people that came up driving real fast. He could have shot the old man that was distraught and a bit confused, I think he was suffering a little bit from dementia. But in an instant, it taught me, and I never forgot it, what our law enforcement people have to deal with moment-to-moment, second to second."

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Washington’s "Little Things" sees him on both sides of the complicated discussion over police when he plays a disgraced former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detective who gets a chance at redemption when a serial killer he once chased appears to be on another murder spree.