From the Huffington Post:
Long before Denzel Washington was Denzel -- the two-time Oscar winner who is one of Hollywood's biggest stars -- he was a struggling actor taking the stage in summer stock and off-Broadway productions.
When he was cast as Malcolm X in "When Chickens Come Home to Roost" at the New Federal Theatre in 1981, little did he know that the role would propel his career into the stratosphere. Washington's electric performance captivated audiences and caught the attention of television producers assembling the cast for a new TV hospital drama, "St. Elsewhere," which went on to win multiple Emmys and push-start his jump to Hollywood. Sitting in the audience for one of those shows at the theater's home on Grand Street on New York's Lower East Side was a young NYU film student named Spike Lee, who was blown away by Washington's performance and chose him to play Malcolm X in his hit film nearly a dozen years later, a role which thrust the actor into the A-list of Hollywood stars.Read more here.