Representation matters, and Denzel Washington doesn't dispute that. But the Oscar-winning actor has sound advice for kids and parents alike: If you're looking for real role models, turn off Netflix.
"Growing up watching people in the movies, that was great, but I couldn't reach out and touch them, like I could the leaders in my club," Washington told AOL, referring to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. An alum who grew up in the organization, Washington has been a spokesperson for 25 years this year.
"I think it's important to have positive role models on television and the like, but I think it's important to turn the television off," he continued. "And pick up a book. Or engage face-to-face, human being to human being."
Of seeing ethnic minorities properly represented in film and TV, Washington said, "I think we've made tremendous strides. [But] I think the real work is done on the grassroots level."
The sentiment was echoed by Malachi Haynes, who was recently chosen out of more than four million member sto serve as Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year.
"The role models I've seen at Boys & Girls Club have had a large impact on my life -- more than what I've seen on TV," Haynes said.
Washington noted he often reflects on his childhood. He keeps, he said, a particularly personal memento by his desk.
"I have a picture of us from my football team, I was about eight or nine, that I keep in my study in my office," he said. "I always look at it and just reminisce about all the guys -- in those days it was just a Boys Club -- that I grew up with and had wonderful life experiences with."