Phenomena: A Podcast Discusses if Denzel Washington is the Best Actor Alive

Podcasts usually shift from one topic to another, engaging their audiences with a slew of new ideas and interesting anecdotes from their hosts and guests with each episode that’s recorded and published. This avoidance of monotony, or at the least the attempt to find fresh talking points, is one of the main ways that a podcast stays relevant. However, there is one notable podcast that week in and week out centers its ideas on the same topic yet stays fresh and interesting for its listeners: “Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor Alive Period.”The podcast continuously circles back to the notion that Washington stands alone from his peers in the entertainment world, but the hosts of the show have managed to continually create timely discussions about race, tensions in America, and the role of minorities in both film and society from it.

The show, hosted by W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery, began as a simple attempt to explain the significance of Washington’s career. The discussion was about his impact on the film industry and the growing diversity in media. Airing since 2014, the podcast now has 114 episodes and counting. It has continued to feature noteworthy people who add to the podcast's genuine love of Denzel while subsequently speaking about prominent topics in the news and media.

Some notable guests include Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, Sterling K. Brown, and Ryan Coogler. The show strives to bring on people who are affecting the discussion on race and diversity. Usually the guests speak about their time in film and acting while adding a light, humorous aspect to the podcast by discussing their favorite actor, Denzel Washington. 

When the hosts aren’t speaking with guests, they attempt to define Washington’s career by placing his movies into four different eras. These four eras are: the “Glory” era, the “He Got Game” era, the “Man on Fire” era, and the “Old Man Action” era. This last era includes recent films like “The Book of Eli”, “Safe House” and “The Equalizer.” These four periods of Denzel's career highlight the kind of films he was making during those eras, but also show how his impact in Hollywood increased. As Denzel became a more prominent figure in Hollywood, his films have seen a similar effect in terms of their money making ability. 

W. Kamau Bell (left) and Kevin Avery (right).

W. Kamau Bell (left) and Kevin Avery (right).

The podcast always finds a way to highlight the role of black talent and the difficulties and recent successes of this portion of Hollywood. For example episode 112 spends time discussing the recent Oscar’s awards triumph for minority actors and filmmakers. The recipients of the awards included Viola Davis’ win for Best Supporting Actress, “Moonlight” winning Best Picture (after a certain mix-up), and Mahershala Ali’s win for Best Supporting Actor. While focusing on the importance of these wins at the premiere awards show in film, Bell and Avery still make a conscionable effort to bring the podcast back to Washington, highlighting his reactions to the speeches and messages that defined the show this year.

When the show isn’t reviewing Washington’s filmography or discussing pertinent issues regarding race and diversity, the hosts and guests often trade stories about interactions with Denzel. This effectively humanizes this towering figure in film so that listeners can better understand that while Washington truly affects the industry, he still is a person just like any of the listeners of the show.

In addition to delving into Washington’s life outside of film, the hosts and guests also discuss his forays into other modes of entertainment. They discuss his roles in theater, how his films have aged over the years, and if his movies still possess the same lasting impact that they had when first released. 

Both hosts of the show - but specifically Bell, have found that their prominence from the podcast has translated into an ability to push forward progressive ideas that can affect both listeners and new readers alike. Bell uses his blog to promote new thinking on movies with black actors and filmmakers in addition to the changing thought process around minority actors and actresses in film. Bell hopes that more roles designed for black actors will begin to be offered in addition to prominent roles that would normally be offered to white actors. 

A new addition of the podcast comes out each week on Thursdays, with plenty more unique and important guests and discussions to come.