Nominee Q&A

Denzel Washington on How He's Similar to His 'Roman J. Israel, Esq.' Character: "Natural Born Slobs"

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
'Roman J. Israel, Esq.'

The Oscar nominee also reveals why he researched Asperger's to play the eccentric titular defense attorney and whether he enjoys attending the Academy Awards.

Denzel Washington, 63, earned his eighth acting nomination (and ninth overall) for playing the eccentric titular defense attorney at the center of Dan Gilroy’s courtroom drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

What research did you do to find this character?

I started doing a lot of research about the spectrum and Asperger’s. I felt like there was evidence in the script that made me feel that this man was on the spectrum. Dan and I talked about it and just did a lot of research in what that entails.

How did you decide what Roman would look like — his hair, clothes?

It’s a process; one thing leads to another. You start with asking, “Why? Why is he alone? Why doesn’t he have a relationship? Why does he live alone? Why is there nothing in his house but books? Why doesn’t he have any friends?” You just start asking those questions of yourself and answering them, and then you’re off to the races, hopefully.

Do you have anything specific in common with Roman?

Natural born slobs. Oh man, my shirt won’t stay in. But I enjoyed that so much — that was right up my alley.

Do you enjoy the Oscars?

For me, it’s all about the work — it’s all about growing and trying to learn and get better as an actor. I really got stretched doing Roman J. Israel. But I really do appreciate that people appreciate the work that we did.

This story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.