You’ll Never Guess What Job Denzel Washington Did Before Becoming One Of Hollywood’s Highest Paid Actors

Denzel Washington has expressed bewilderment at why colleagues of his caliber would complain about their profession in entertainment, citing his own early experiences working in sanitation and the postal service before his breakthrough.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: Denzel Washington attends the 2022 Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Salute To Freedom Gala at Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum on May 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

In a resurfaced clip from The Hollywood Reporter’s “Oscar Director’s Roundtable,” published on Jan. 16, 2017, Washington — then the director of the film adaptation of “Fences” and an established actor playing a main character in the film — joined a panel of prominent directors. The group included Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Oliver Stone (“Snowden”), Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Mira Nair (“Queen of Katwe”), and Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”).

Before Denzel Washington was a Hollywood Star

The acclaimed Mount Vernon, New York, actor did not specify when and where he worked as a trash collector, but it is stated to be his first job and the experiences he endured in his 20s have kept him grounded, teaching him the values of hard work and humility.

“Yeah, a garbage man. You get eight hours worth of work, but you can do it in three or four hours, and you can go home as soon as you finish. At the post office, you get three hours worth of work and you make it last eight. I did both. I liked being a garbage man better, but they weren’t bad jobs. People talk about the difficulty of making a movie. I’m like, ‘listen, you son of a…’ That’s difficult? It’s just a movie. Relax. I don’t play that precious nonsense. ‘Oh, we’re making a movie!’ Get outta here,” Washington told the THR panel. 57:00 mark.

“Your son getting shot in the face, that’s difficult. Making a movie is a luxury, a gift, an opportunity. And most importantly, it’s a gift. Not everyone is talented enough to do it, but don’t get it twisted. It’s just a movie. It ain’t that big a deal,” Washington added.

Washington’s career path has come full circle, from garbage man to actor to director. In his directorial role for “Fences,” he played Troy Maxson—a former Negro league baseball player turned garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh—in the 2016 film. The movie is based on the August Wilson play of the same name.

Washington also spoke about his days as a garbage collector with Jimmy Kimmel, published on Feb. 15, 2017. The conversation, while amusing and brief, touched on the unpleasant aspects of the job. The actor noted that his commonality with Troy Maxson is purely coincidental.

Washington also echoed his sentiments about being a garbage man on the late Larry King’s show, in an interview published on July 31, 2013. Joined by fellow actor Mark Wahlberg, the two discussed the differences between working in Hollywood and real hard work.

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