“So how many years would you say you and I have known each other?,” asked Jimmy Kimmel Live guest host Samuel L. Jackson of his first interviewee on Friday. A standard question in the late-night index card file, although, since Jackson was talking to the now-superstar son of longtime friend and colleague Denzel Washington in Tenet’s John David Washington, the answer was well-known to them both. (It’s all the years. Pretty much all of Washington’s 36 years.) Having introduced the Ballers breakout as someone he knew before the little guy was able to shave, Jackson virtually ruffled the now-grown Washington’s hair by with his mock-shock that the younger Washington sports and actual, grown-up beard in Tenet, and everything.
Throughout, Washington answered Jackson’s beaming questions with the bashful pride of a nephew afraid that that one garrulously proud uncle is about to bust out the noogies. “Yes, uncle Sam,” is how the endearingly fidgeting major movie star invariably answered Jackson’s knowing queries about whether it’s true the actor spent several quarantine months in his childhood bedroom, back under daddy Denzel’s roof. (The rules were a little looser this time out, but not that much.) Washington also burst out in surprised laughter when Jackson asked if director Spike Lee (who’s famously directed Jackson and both Washingtons right to Oscar night) ever added some “Denzel wouldn’t do it like that” smack on his acting notes. (He has not, thankfully.)
As for Tenet, which Jackson hyped as “in theaters, where theaters are open,” even Jackson’s avuncular wiles weren’t enough to get Washington to spill any of the film’s Christopher Nolan-brand twists. Washington, while admitting that his family did pepper him with a few “What the hell was going on?” questions after a family screening, assured Jackson that it all makes sense in the end. (In a Christoper Nolan way, at least.) Jackson, perhaps sensing the lad was getting a little big for his britches, then sent Washington into another adorably abashed giggle fit by asking whether John David Washington’s The Protagonist (as Tenet’s protagonist is solely known) could kick the ass of Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer. Washington dodged any potential, He Got Game father-son real life showdowns, however, saying that Tenet’s mysterious “inversion” element would give the younger Washington’s character a sci-fi edge dad’s TV remake two-time butt-whooper just doesn’t have.
On the way out the door, Jackson teased the lad one more time, asking, “You that worried about what was gonna come out of my mouth?” To which Washington responded with a just-let-me-out-of-here, “Yes, sir,” in a tone no doubt familiar to nephews of badass, ultra-cool family uncles the world over.