When Spike Lee first told actor John David Washington about his idea for the movie that would become "," Washington thought he was referring to a well-known Dave Chappelle sketch about a black Klansman. But it was Spike Lee, so he listened.
"He sends me the book, I read it, call him a week later and say this is unbelievable, I can't believe this happened. And he asked me if I loved it; I said, I love it. He said, 'Bet. I'll see you this summer and we got started,'" Washington told "CBS This Morning."
The story of a black cop setting out to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s isn't some fictional tale of vengeance, but the real life story of Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Washington's portrayal of Stallworth won him his first Golden Globe nomination for best actor.
"[Stallworth] was very generous with his time and information and I got a great deal of insight on the case and him as a person, where he stood as a black man in Colorado Springs in the '70s and being the first-ever African-American detective in that town. So I got a lot of information. He keeps his card on him at all times, signed by David Duke, his [Klan] membership card … So I just got a lot of information from him. It made it easier to be able to become him," Washington said.
The movie touches on racism and anti-Semitism and ultimately draws comparisons to the white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Nineteen people wereand one woman was in the violence that followed.
"I got to say, building up to that point, I mean, it's surprising given the subject matter how heavy it is, surprisingly entertaining. I mean, a lot of people are laughing in the theater. So it was gut-punching, though, when you see the end and you're seeing how Spike connected what's going on now and what's been going on for a long time."
Spike Lee, who directed the film, has written, directed and produced dozens of acclaimed moves over his more than 30-year career, but critics have called "BlacKkKlansman" his best in decades.