“Throughout the years, I would always call Denzel. He’s a real sage,” the King Richard star told GQ in November 2021.
During the interview, Smith remembered a time when he reached out to the older actor for advice when he felt unsure about where to go next in both his career and personal life. “I was probably 48 or something like that and I called Denzel,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Listen. You’ve got to think of it as the funky 40. Everybody’s 40s are funky.’ He said, ‘But just wait till you hit the f–k-it 50s,’”
Smith continued: “He said, ‘Just bear with your 40s.’ I stopped and I was like, ‘The funky 40s and the f–k-it 50s.’ And that’s exactly what happened. It just became the f–k-it 50s, and I gave myself the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do.”
The pair’s decades-long friendship made headlines in March 2022, when the Training Day star comforted Smith after he slapped Chris Rock during the Oscars. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum stormed the stage after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith — who has alopecia — starring in G.I. Jane 2, referring to her shaved head. After Smith slapped the comedian in the face, he returned to his front row seat seat and shouted at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”
During a commercial break in the aftermath of the altercation, Washington was spotted speaking with his friend.”No way I could have sat in my seat,” the Fences director said during a panel at the T.D. Jakes Leadership Summit on Saturday, April 2, about his reaction to the incident. “That’s just not who I am. … Fortunately, there were people there, not just me but others, [like] Tyler Perry, came immediately right over there with me.”
While accepting the Best Actor trophy for his performance in King Richard, Smith mentioned that Washington had offered him some advice in the moments after his fight with Rock. “Denzel said a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,’” the Bad Boys star tearfully revealed. “It’s like, I want to be a vessel for love. … That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
Washington explained the moment during the panel later that week: “There’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong. The devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite.’ Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got a hold of him that night.”
Keep scrolling to learn more about Washington and Smith’s decades-long friendship: