Katie Couric recalls 'uncomfortable' Denzel Washington interview that left her 'shaken'

Taryn Ryder
·3-min read

Katie Couric has talked with a lot of people in her decades-long career, but there's one interview that still stands out — and not in a good way. While on the Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino podcast, the TV veteran recalled an exchange with Denzel Washington that left her "shaken."

"Both celebrities and politicians, they can often be so calculated in their answers," Pellegrino said. "As an interviewer, have you left an interview — whether it be with a president or an actor or something — where you felt like they bamboozled you a little bit?"

"I have to think about that for a while," Couric replied. "I had a very uncomfortable interview once with Denzel Washington about the remake of The Manchurian Candidate... I think he totally misconstrued a question I asked and kind of jumped all over me."

Katie Couric remembers tense exchange with Denzel Washington that was "uncalled for."
Katie Couric remembers tense exchange with Denzel Washington that was "uncalled for." (Photo: Getty Images)

Couric said "it was so uncomfortable" as Washington’s co-star, Meryl Streep, looked on. The former Today show host is referring to a 2004 Dateline interview where she talked with the actors about the political thriller.

"Denzel, are you — do you feel— you know some people say Hollywood folks should stick to acting," Couric asked.

"I don't know what Hollywood folks are, first of all," Washington replied. "Hollywood is a town that has some stars on the sidewalk. I don't know anybody from there. So, I don't — that's like saying — calling you a type of folks. I'm not a Hollywood folk. I don't know who they are."

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Couric followed up, "OK, all right, well, let me rephrase the question. Are you one of those people that —"

"Ah, there you go. Am I one of those people? Hmmm, isn't that interesting?" Washington interjected.

"Oh, stop, stop, stop," Couric said.

"No, don't stop. I heard what you just said. 'Am I one of those people?' No, I'm not," Washington replied.

"No, are you an actor who would rather not — " Couric continued.

"No, I'm not that either," Washington said. "I'm a human being. My job is acting."

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 22:  Actor Denzel Washington arrives at the premiere of Paramounts' "The Manchurian Candidate" on July 22, 2004 at the Samual Goldwyn Theater, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Denzel Washington arrives at the premiere of Paramounts' "The Manchurian Candidate" on July 22, 2004. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

"OK, are you somebody who would rather not express his political views publicly? I mean how do you feel about that?" Couric asked. "Some people are more outspoken than others. And what I meant, are you one of the people who would rather keep it private? Don't make my questions loaded when they're not."

"Would I rather keep it private? No, I'm not one of those people. I think I speak what's on my mind," Washington replied.

Couric told Pellegrino she remembered leaving the interview and thinking, "I don't think I said anything that wrong."

Denzel Washington and Jeffrey Wright in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate. (Paramount)
Denzel Washington and Jeffrey Wright in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate. (Paramount)

"I don't know what happened," she added. "Anyway, I think he must have been having a really bad day 'cause he later wrote a big check to my colon cancer organisation, which I thought was super sweet."

Couric called Washington one of her "favourite actors."

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"I love him, I admire him so much," she noted, "but I remember walking out and feeling really kind of shaken that he had kind of gone after me in a way that was completely, weirdly uncalled for."

Yahoo Entertainment reached out to a rep for Washington, but did not immediately receive a response.