NEW YORK—Don’t worry about being a Hollywood star. Instead be the best you can be at what you do, Fordham Alumnus Denzel Washington (FCLC ’77) told more than 100 theater students in Pope Auditorium at the Lincoln Center campus on Friday, May 6.
“You can’t learn how to act well in film. That’s what I am doing back on Broadway, trying to get better,” Washington said during a two-hour visit before going to the Belasco Theatre, where he is starring as Brutus in a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. “It’s like going back to the factory to have your instrument sharpened.
“I’d much rather be good than famous,” he said.
Washington talked with students about the challenges of stage work, regaled them with stories of his Fordham days and urged them to stay humble.
“Bob Stone told me to remember that everybody puts on their pants one leg at a time,” said Washington, referring to the late Robert W. Stone, Ph.D., his mentor and a former Fordham English professor. “I am here by the grace of God, humility and hard work.”
Success, he added, is not measured by accolades or money.
“You have never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse,” he said. “It’s not what you have. It’s what you have done with what you have; it’s who you helped today.
“[As actors] we have a rare opportunity. We shouldn’t take it for granted,” Washington said. “We should cherish it because we influence people. You do it right here on the stage. You affect people, and you never know how, when or whom.”
Washington last visited with students at his alma mater in 1999, when he spent 90 minutes talking with students about his career and the film Hurricane, in which he portrayed professional boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
Associate Professor Matthew Maguire, who invited Washington back to campus on Friday on behalf of the Fordham theater department, said the impact of the actor’s visit was immeasurable.
“Here is a guy who got his start on the very same stage that our students are working on,” Maguire said. “He is a role model. Students can look at him and say, ‘I can do this too.'”