This is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson opened up on Tuesday about an extraordinary gift from Denzel Washington when she was still a struggling Howard student.
Watson and a few other students at Howard University had the opportunity to study Shakespeare at Oxford in London, but Watson knew she couldn’t afford a trip like that.
Thankfully, she had an amazing friend in actress Phylicia Rashad, who was also a Howard alum. Rashad went to Washington with the dilemma, and the next thing Watson knew, she was suddenly able to go on the trip.
“There were 10 of us,” Watson said on Live with Kelly & Ryan. “It was, like, $5,000 per person, and she calls [and says], ‘Denzel and I are paying for you guys to go.’”
“This amazing summer that changed all of our lives”
It was more than just a gift to Watson as an aspiring actress, she added. For those Howard students, this was an opportunity that simply didn’t come to minority students.
“They didn’t have many minority students, much less people from a historically black university go, so we were one of the inaugural groups to go,” Watson said.
For the students who went to Oxford, the trip, as well as the generous gesture, was not something they would soon forget.
“I’m happy to say [Denzel] paid for my scholarship, and we went and had this amazing summer that changed all of our lives,” she said.
Now, Watson is a star, playing Beth Pearson on This is Us. And as she lives her dream, she was able to see Washington again to thank him years after that summer trip.
“I said, ‘Excuse me Mr. Washington, you paid for my scholarship to go,’” Watson recalled of the meeting.
Laughing, she added, “And he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re welcome.’”