*In his new film, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Denzel Washington plays a defense attorney with an idealistic bent that’s put to the test when life smacks him in the face.

During his promotion stint for the film in New York, he was asked for his thoughts on America’s criminal justice system and how if it’s responsible for the high rate of black incarceration.

“It starts at the home,” was the rather surprising response he gave reporters at the film’s premiere in downtown New York. “It starts at home,” he repeated.

When asked to expound on his answer, Washington, 62, said:

“It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.

“So you know I can’t blame the system,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington stars in Columbia Pictures’ ROMAN J. ISRAEL ESQ.

If you’re wondering how he and the film hooked up, Washington came into the project with an insider’s edge on writer-director Dan Gilroy; he spars at the same gym as Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred in Gilroy’s critically acclaimed 2014 film “Nightcrawler,” and the actor gave Washington a full briefing on Gilroy.

“I got to learn a little bit about Dan in advance, and to see the great collaboration they had together,” Washington explained. “So it was easy, it was seamless and it was invigorating.”

Washington also talked about the film and his decision to be a part of it. When asked if it had to do with playing a lawyer again, he explained:

“It really didn’t have much to do with that. It was just that Dan wrote a good script, a good story, the guy happened to be a lawyer. Law wasn’t the thing that attracted me to the story.”

(BTW, Washington declined to answer questions as to whether he or Gyllenhaal would win in the boxing ring).