Get to know Denzel Washington’s four children: John David, Katia, Malcolm and Olivia
Denzel and Pauletta married in 1983 and are the proud parents of four children: John David, 39, Katia, 35, and twins Malcolm and Olivia, 32.
All of the Training Day star's children have followed in his footsteps and pursued careers in entertainment in some form. However, Denzel has said that he and his family lead normal lives outside of the spotlight, even crediting his kids for keeping him humble.
"I am who I am — a regular guy with a great job. How I'm analyzed belongs to someone else," he told Reader's Digest in 2009. "In a few minutes, I've got a kid's game to go to, and then I'm taking our daughter to auditions. Today, that's my job."
Through the years, Denzel has instilled his own wisdom into his kids, including teaching them about challenges they may face in their lives.
"I try to teach my children there are going to be obstacles," he said during a 2008 appearance on the Early Show. "Someone may not like you just because they don't like themselves. But, don't you get bogged down."
He has also credited his wife, Pauletta, for how his four children were raised.
"My children are good people," Denzel told The Guardian in 2010. "They are not perfect but they are generous and humble and kind. My wife did that."
Here's everything to know about Denzel Washington's children.
John David Washington, 39
Denzel and Pauletta's eldest son, John David Washington, was born on July 28, 1984, in Los Angeles. He attended Campbell Hall School in L.A., where he was on the basketball, football and track teams. After he graduated from high school in 2002, he attended Atlanta's Morehouse College, where he played football as a running back and graduated in 2006.
After college, John David had a brief career as a professional football player. He signed with the St. Louis Rams during the 2006-2007 season before playing for Germany's Rhein Fire during the 2007 offseason.
In 2009, he was drafted to the United Football League's California Redwoods, where he played until 2012 when the league shut down.
Denzel once used lines from Spike Lee's 1992 drama Malcolm X to inspire his son's youth football team, but he was glad that John David's professional football career was cut short and that he pivoted to acting. "He's had I don't know how many concussions, a broken collar bone, a torn-up knee and Achilles [tendon]," he told PEOPLE in 2018. "No, I'm glad it's over."
John David's acting career initially started as a child, when he played a student in Malcolm X while his dad played the title character. During a January 2021 interview with WSJ. Magazine, he said that he had "always" wanted to be an actor like his dad, but he turned to a more private life at first.
"I jumped in and hid in this football persona, this athlete, literally putting on a helmet to hide my face, hide my identity," he said.
As an actor, John David has appeared in a wide variety of projects, including Ballers, Tenet, Malcolm & Marie and Amsterdam. He made his Broadway debut in the 2022 revival of The Piano Lesson alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Danielle Brooks. He earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his role in 2018's BlacKkKlansman.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor said that he was sitting next to his dad when he learned he was nominated for best actor in a drama.
"I was watching it with my old man," John David said. "When they called the name it was like super slow motion. I heard the 'Johhh' and then he grabbed me and we hugged for what felt like 10 minutes. We just held on to each other. And then my mom was on speakerphone. … She was crying and saying she loved me and was proud of me. It was a straight tear session."
John David has been open about his parents' influence on his life and career. At a September 2022 press conference, he shared one lesson he learned from his father: "The freedom to fail, to find out, flourish in that failure. In that being uncomfortable, you'll find the greatest parts of yourself as an artist."
He had previously told PEOPLE that his mom, Pauletta, was "the most consistent person" in his life and cited her as his inspiration; he added that his dad was "his favorite actor."
He added: "I think the best actor in the industry, in the business, is my father. I'm inspired by the kind of career he's had and what he's had to do. … I just am so inspired and continue to be inspired by what he does and how he works and his approach to the craft and the business."
Katia Washington, 35
Denzel and Pauletta's second child, daughter Katia Washington, was born on Nov. 27, 1986, in L.A. Katia studied at Yale University, where she graduated in 2010. Though Katia keeps her personal life private, she has followed the career path of many other members of the Washington family and works behind the scenes as a producer for Bron Studios.
In her career, she has worked as a producer on Fences, Malcolm & Marie, Breaking and Sharp Stick.
Malcolm Washington, 32
Malcolm Washington and his twin sister, Olivia, were born on April 10, 1991, in L.A. He attended the Windward School, where he lettered four years in basketball. He also received several accolades as a high school athlete, including first-team all-league, Academic All-American and 2009 Windward Winter Classic Tournament MVP, all while remaining on the honor roll.
After high school, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied film and played for the university's basketball team during the 2009-2010 season. One of his former teammates, Zack Rosen, called Malcolm "pesky" to the Daily Pennsylvanian in November 2009. "He brings energy," Rosen added. "And I think he knows that that's his role — the energy guy, bringing a lot of spunk."
Malcolm followed in the footsteps of his father, who played basketball at Fordham University. Malcolm told the Daily Pennsylvanian that his dad still played ball with him, adding, "He's slowed down a little bit with his age but he thinks he's still good, so I guess that's what counts."
He has since worked as a director and producer. He worked as an assistant director on the short films The Last Bookstore and Trouble Man. As a producer, he was involved with Summer of 17, The Dispute and North Hollywood. He was also Spike Lee's assistant on the 2017 series adaptation of She's Gotta Have It.
Olivia Washington, 32
Like her twin brother Malcolm, Olivia Washington was born in L.A. on April 10, 1991. After high school, Olivia studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in drama.
Much like her siblings and her parents, Olivia has pursued a career in the entertainment industry as an actress. In May 2015, she told New York Amsterdam News that she "grew up with an artistic spirit" and was often dancing or playing the piano. But it wasn't until she was a junior in high school that she began working with family friend LaTanya Richardson-Jackson and realized she wanted to focus on acting.
Olivia said she "learned a lot" from her parents growing up, but she had a "very normal childhood" despite being raised by prolific actors.
"I wouldn't say I grew up in the industry, my parents were in it, but I went to school, I had after-school activities, I had a very normal childhood," she said. "It's interesting because I think people assume that in my house we discuss 'the industry' like at the dinner table or something, but that wasn't the case."
As an actor, she has appeared in episodes of Empire, Madoff and Mr. Robot. She's also had roles in movies like The Little Things, A Holiday in Harlem and Lee Daniels' The Butler.
Olivia also appeared in Breaking (formerly known as 892), for which she won a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award for best ensemble cast alongside John Boyega, Nicole Beharie and Selenis Leyva, among others. Olivia has the stamp of approval from her father, who spoke about her acting skills in a January 2021 appearance on Good Morning America.
"I'm a dad so I'm gonna keep saying it: Olivia Washington is a great young actress. Very, very, very good young actress, so she's coming for her brother [John David]," Denzel said. "It's a team sport in our house."
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