Oscar Actors: Washington, Denzel–Emotional about Mother’s Recent Death

Washington Remembers Late Mother on Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’

During Wednesday’s broadcast of the late night show, the actor fought back tears as he reflected on his mother dying this year, at the age of 97.

While making an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to promote both his role in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth and his own directorial effort A Journal for Jordan, Denzel Washington admitted that he didn’t cry during his late mother’s funeral, but he quipped that perhaps he’d “saved it up” for Colbert.

During Wednesday’s episode of the late night show, Washington reflected on losing his mother, Lennis Washington, this year at the age of 97.

“She didn’t get cheated. Nor did my brother or sister,” the actor said after Colbert remarked that it’s a “great blessing to have your mother so long.”

After quoting Washington as once saying “a mother is a son’s first love,” Colbert inquired as to how the actor honors his mother’s love with his work.

The question led Washington to get choked up. “A mother is a son’s first true love. A son, especially their first son, is a mother’s last true love,” Washington said before pausing as he became emotional and apologized to the audience.

He went on to explain that the words were proven to be true after he saw the relationship between his wife and his son, actor John David Washington. “I don’t care what he does, she’s going ‘All right, baby,’” he said.

“She was there for everything and she went home,” Washington said of his mother, proceeding to ask Colbert for a tissue as he continued to fight back tears. When Colbert showed a photograph of Washington posing with his mother at the 1990 Academy Awards, a still emotional Washington quipped, “This is terrible! Didn’t cry at her funeral. … I guess I saved it up for you.”

When Colbert referenced a quote from Sigmund Freud that “a son who believes himself to be his mother’s favorite has a lifelong confidence that nothing can shake,” Washington questioned whether he was his mother’s favorite.

“I don’t know if I was her favorite,” he said. “I gave her the hardest time, I can tell you that!”

In interview with The New York Times, Washington revealed that he had made a promise to his mother before she died that he would “attempt to honor her and God by living the rest of my days in a way that would make her proud.”

He also shared that he finds more interest in directing because it allows him to help others. “What I do, what I make, what I made — all of that — is that going to help me on the last day of my life? It’s about, Who have you lifted up? Who have we made better?” he said.

Both The Tragedy of Macbeth — which Washington stars in alongside Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand — and A Journal for Jordan, starring Michael B. Jordan, open on Christmas Day.