Colbert brought up a quote Washington said about a mother being a boy’s first true love, and the host asked the actor how he is honoring that love with his work. That’s when the Oscar winner was hit with some unexpected emotions.
“A mother is a son's first true love. A son, especially that first son, is a mother's last true love,” Washington began. “That's... I'm getting choked up. Sorry.”
Washington, who stars in the new Joel Coen film The Tragedy of Macbeth, went on to say that his mother was there for everything throughout his life and career, but “she went home,” before asking Colbert for a tissue.
The emotions of the moment caught up with viewers at home, who took to Twitter with comments like “Crying with Denzel Washington tonight was not something I had on my agenda.”
Crying with Denzel Washington tonight was not something I had on my agenda
— jan⁷ (@mygnyam) (@mygnyams) December 16, 2021
— Julieanne Chabot (@JulieAnnChabot) December 16, 2021
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) December 16, 2021
After sitting for a moment in an attempt to gather himself, Washington then told Colbert that he didn’t even cry at his mother’s funeral. And when the host asked why he thinks that is, the answer was a perfect way to lighten the mood.
“I don't know. I guess I saved it up for you,” Washington said, laughing. “For crying out loud!”
But Washington, who is the father of actor John David Washington, did choose a pretty good shoulder to cry on, considering Colbert lost his father and two of his older brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old, and his own mother died in 2013.
So when Washington closed his interview by saying, “Hug them, love them,” Colbert simply added, “I know it well.”
Watch Tom Holland describe how he ended up on a FaceTime with blood pouring down his face: