While movie stars from Will Smith to Adam Sandler have embraced Netflix projects at the expense of seeing their work open in theaters around the country, Denzel Washington has yet to change things up. The actor may have started his career on the small screen with his breakthrough role in “St. Elsewhere,” but he hasn’t appeared in a television role since the nineties, and his commitment to appearing in theaters couldn’t be more obvious today: His next role after his Oscar-nominated performance in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is on Broadway, where he plays the the unpredictable saloon regular Hickey in a new production of Eugene O’Neil’s “The Iceman Cometh.”
The play, currently in previews, marks the actor’s first Broadway production since 2014’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” but he said it remains his favorite medium.
“I started on the stage and I’ll finish on the stage,” he told IndieWire at a media event for “The Iceman Cometh,” which is currently in previews ahead of a 14-week engagement starting April 26. “God willing, I’ll be back if my knees hold out. It’s where I learned how to act. You don’t learn it on film, you learn it on stage, when it’s live every night. Things happen. People talk back to you. You drop stuff. It’s professionally my first love and it’ll be my last.”
Nevertheless, Washington’s current filmography suggests he remains a major theatrical draw. He next starts in “Equalizer 2,”the sequel to the 2014 action thriller that grossed $192 million at the box office. Needless to say, he said he was untroubled by the impact of home entertainment on theatrical ventures. “Eh, there’s room for all of it,” he said. “I know we’re sold out.” (A representative for Netflix declined to comment, but pointed out that the company did release 33 films last year with a day-and-date release strategy.)
For Washington, starring in “The Iceman Cometh” felt like coming full circle after he launched his career onstage with a role in O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones” while he was still a student at Fordham University. “So here I am, 40 years later,” he said, “revisiting him.”