I completely disagree that he’s trying not to be anyone’s “folk” of any kind. He is as unapologetically black as I am. No one would star in a film like “Malcolm X” who doesn’t take pride in who he is. The way he challenged Katie Couric tells that he is comfortable in his own skin. However, I think his approach to race leans more toward Michael B. Jordan’s, who asked specifically to only take on roles that would be given to white men. Jordan basically said that by him being a black man in that role, that automatically adds a different perspective to the role.
I believe Denzel Washington has done just that. He is as comfortable in “Lady Sings the Blues” as he is in “Training Day” or “The Great Debaters” or “Antwone Fisher.” Somebody audience members are uncomfortable with someone who feels no need to remove himself from his race to play a role. Denzel understands how to balance the two. If he didn’t, I believe he would’ve cowered to her questioning and never challenged her responses.
But yes, he does play a wide variety of roles.