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Washington's Heights

Desperate Writers star Pauletta Washington talks about her career and life with husband Denzel Washington.

By: Iris Wiener · May 26, 2011  · New York

Pauletta Washington began performing over 30 years ago, and has shared the stage with such greats as Phyllis Newman, Chita Rivera, and Leslie Uggams. But most people know her from sharing her life with her husband, Tony and Oscar winner Denzel Washington. She is now back on the boards as Vanessa, an endearing literary agent, in the new Off-Broadway comedy Desperate Writers at the Union Square Theater. Washington recently spoke to TheaterMania about her offstage life.

THEATERMANIA: You're starring in a play about writers. Have you considered writing your autobiography?
PAULETTA WASHINGTON: I've actually been approached to write a book, because I have a very interesting, full life! Even before meeting Denzel, my life was amazing. I got into singing and musical theater while going to graduate school. I needed to support myself, so I worked at a Six Flags theme park in Texas, and I was the star attraction there. There were several years when the main show was designed around me. And I thought, "Wow! This is amazing!" because I had auditioned for them on a fluke. The next thing you know, I was not only hired for the part, but for the main theater! To me, it was divinely ordered that acting was what I do.

TM: Still, you gave up acting for about 25 years. Do you have any regrets about choosing to to be a stay-at-home mom to your four kids?
PW: I feel like the "part" of being mom to these four incredible children outweighed all of the acting parts that I could have missed. To be honest, it was a completely selfish thing, because I wanted to be the one to see my children walk and talk and do all the first things before anybody else. I was also married to the idea that my mom was there for me and my siblings, and how refreshing and secure it made me as a person to know that when I came home, there she was. There are so many women I know that wanted to do it but they just couldn't afford to do it. I was blessed to be able to do it, and it wasn't like we were making tons of money at the beginning. But we did manage to work it out. I started transferring the talent that I had in theater and in music to my home and seeing how I could be creative there with what I had. I would make it appear that we had a whole lot of money, even when we didn't. It became a production. I was one of the producers, and definitely the director of the home and of the children. And the actress too!

TM: What is it like to be married to such a famous star?

PW: So many people say: "Oh, you're so lucky to be married to Denzel!" Most people are saying it from the perspective of his popularity; not like they think it's a blessing to be married to such a wonderful person! Another funny one is when I'm standing with him and a person will come up and go, "Can you ask him if I can..." I go, "No, you ask him! He's standing right there!"

TM: Have you considered working on a theatrical production together?
PW: No. Theater is Denzel's first love, but I don't know how smart that would be. I think our relationship has worked so well because he has his world, I have my world, and then we can bring the worlds together. It's more exciting this way. Now he's filming in Africa, and it's exciting for him to be taken out of his world to hear about my world, and vice versa. It also helps to separate me from being his wife when being introduced to people. I always experience, "Let's see. Is she one of these housewives of Beverly Hills?" No. I'm an actor. I'm an artist. I was before him, I was during his up-and-coming period, and I am still. So it's been a fantastic ride to where we are now in our lives.

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