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It’s becoming the season of Denzel Washington. After wowing audiences in gang banger American Gangster last month, the double Oscar winner returns Christmas Day with The Great Debaters with a double role — as actor and director. The flick marks Denzel’s second directorial feature — after 2002’s Antwone Fisher — and working behind the camera is only getting better for him.

"I got a new life behind the camera," he tells OK! at the movie’s press junket. "I feel like I’m starting over. I have a greater appreciation of what a director does. It’s not just cut and press junket. It’s a little bit more than that."

Based on a true story, the film follows a Wiley College professor, played by Denzel, who inspires the school’s first debate team to a national championship in 1935. The actor says he himself wouldn’t get into an exchange of words because "talk is cheap." A do-er, Denzel says he’s always tried to teach his kids that actions speak louder than words.

"I’d like to see them express their opinions, believe in themselves and study hard but I haven’t encouraged them to be debaters," he says. "I’ve always taught them ‘Do what you gotta do so you can do what you want to do.’ They grew up with that. I’ve always instilled that in them. It’s a lesson for life."

As for all the award buzz surrounding his two cinematic endeavors, the 52-year-old isn’t thinking too much about Oscar gold.

"It’s just great to get the opportunity to get good roles. Good roles are hard to come by."

By David Lasky

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