People did this awesome article about how Viola & Denzel met and how they built a friendship.

Denzel Washington doesnt remember exactly when he met Viola Davis but she does. It was 21 years ago when Davis was starring in the 1996 Broadway production of August Wilsons play Seven Guitars.

He came [backstage] and I was like, Oh my God, I met Denzel Washington! Davis recalls to PEOPLE alongside her Fences costar and fellow Oscar nominee. The two became better acquainted years later when Washington, 62, cast Davis, 51, in his 2002 directorial debut, Antwone Fisher.

I remember you were at the Trump Towers [in New York City] holding the auditions, Davis says to Washington.

I tell you what, it was a short audition process after that, Washington remembers. Im not just saying that because youre sitting here. [I thought] I know theres other folks sitting out there, I guess well have a look at them because I dont want them to feel bad.

Their work together on Antwone Fisher was the official start of a very happy working relationship, although the two didnt cross paths again until they began work on the 2010 Broadway production of Fences. The play, about a troubled 1950s family, won three Tony awards including best revival of a play and best actor and best actress for Washington and Davis.

Both actors agree that one of the main reasons they agreed to do the film version of Fences was the opportunity to work together again, along with several of the other original actors from the play.

You miss these actors, says Davis. Usually I hate being the only girl because I feel like Im so shy and awkward, I dont like being around a lot of male energy.

Look at her, as she pulls her coat closed, laughs Washington, watching Davis. Thats interesting.

I know but I just loved being around all of [them], she adds. Theyre just great, great men. To me Denzel is familiar, hes easy. Its like I know him. Its like, Thats Denzel. I feel that its always been that way. He, his wife, his kids, and at the same time, Im a fan. I dont like telling him that but Im a fan. But I think he always makes interesting choices, I think its always rooted in truth and humanity and I think he has a lot of courage, hes not a wimp and I like that. I think it takes a lot of courage to be an artist and to really go for it with your ideas, he has all that.

And thank you, goodnight, laughs Washington at the compliments. And, scene!

So how does Washington feel about Davis?

I just like Viola, he says. Viola is a great actor, I love working with her and I love watching her. I love being a part of it. Its interesting working with her because weve worked together twice, but in both those cases other than the play I directed her, but not really directed her. When we did Antwone Fisher, because were actors, I recognize one when I see one. I know how I am and I could see she wanted to be left alone [during filming], she was in the zone, so I knew what to do. Just leave her alone and just watch.

I dont want to just say a clich answer, shes good and I love her, he adds. Shes a sweet lady and shes talented and here we are.

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