HBO’s series Ballers has been a huge hit, the network’s most-watched comedy in six years. The comedy-drama takes an inside look at the lavish lifestyles of professional football players and the outlandish yet relatable situations they find themselves in. Oh, and it’s headlined and produced by the one and only Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If you’re still looking for a reason to watch the show, that should be the only convincing you need. But Ballers has a lot of things working in its favor beyond just the Rock. There are frequent, and often hilarious, cameos by NFL stars. And the Rock’s co-star, John David Washington has been a breakout star of the series. If his face looks familiar, that’s because he also happens to be Denzel Washington’s son.
In Ballers, John David plays Ricky Jerret, a competitive and short-fused receiver for the Miami Dolphins. John David is especially convincing in the role, and nit just because he comes from actin royalty. Much of it has to do with the fact that when it comes to portraying a professional athlete, John David’s not just acting – he was a professional Football player in real life.
At the elite LA school Campbell Hall, John David played on the football, basketball and track teams, earning himself a football scholarship to Morehouse College. As running-back at Morehouse, he set a series of rushing records and was impressive enough to be signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. His NFL career was short-lived, and he was cut before the start of the regular season. Instead, he played for the Hamburg Sea Devils in the European Football League. He then moved back to California to play for the UFL, where he stayed until 2012.
All along, acting was his real passion. “It was in my heart my whole life,” John David spilled in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2015, “but every kid has their rebel kind of thing, so my rebel, I turned to football, ’cause I always loved it too, but this was my thing.” As his football-career faded out, an interview for Ballers launched him into a new acting career.
Aside from a small role at the age of 9 in Denzel’s 1992 film Malcolm X, Ballers is John David’s first acting role. John David teamed up with his father again in 2010, co-producing the post-apocalyptic thriller “The Book of Eli.” Denzel’s eldest son clearly has show-business in his blood, but claims he suppressed it because of the pressure of being under the shadow of his two-time Academy Award winning father. His excellent portrayal of the unpredictable Jerret demonstrates that he’s clearly got the acting gene and the skills to stand out on his own.
HBO has already renewed Ballers for a third season. Fans will be tuning in to see what kind of trouble Jerret will get himself into next. If you’re not already watching Ballers, you should be. Come for the Rock, get sucked in by the hilarious portrayal of pro athletes’ lives, stay for the impressive acting chops of up-and-comer John David Washington.