Rahim Fortune for WSJ. Magazine

There is a Proverb: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In this case, the Trees are Denzel and Pauletta Washington, and the Fruit is John David Washington, my young Lion, who first appeared on the Silver Screen at the ripe old age of 7 in Malcolm X.

You might say his career started there, but it was never that simple—not as the SON of the WORLD FAMOUS Denzel. Sons like that have a rough way to go. It can be a Gift, a Burden or Both. Young J.D. found his own path, starting as a Running Back for the Morehouse football team. I’m proud to call him my MOREHOUSE BROTHER, a fellow alum of a great historically Black college. But despite his time on the field, my guess is that J.D. wanted to be an Actor from the Get-Go. When I began development on BlacKkKlansman, I knew right away that J.D. was “da MAN WIT da PLAN” to portray the real-life Ron Stallworth. I had peeped his SKILLZ in HBO’s series Ballers and I liked what I saw. And as they say, “Da Rest Iz History.” J.D. killed it as Stallworth. When Christopher Nolan, my cinema brother, saw the film at Cannes, I think I saw tears in his eyes. Then—BOOMSHOCKALOCKA! J.D. was cast as the lead in Nolan’s Tenet. When J.D. appears in his New Netflix film Malcolm & Marie in February, people will be Hooting and Hollering for our new matinee idol, our new Dark Gable. The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Like Father, like Son. Amen.

Lee is a writer, film director and producer

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