The world is watching Kerry Washington, and she absolutely knows it. The Emmy Award nominee and media shy actress gave a revealing interview at The Paley Center For Media Wednesday afternoon and #TeamBeautiful was on-hand for the event.
Kerry made us even bigger Gladiators fans than we already are as she candidly discussed evolving from a bookworm growing up in New York City to landing the role of a lifetime as the White House power player Olivia Pope on ABC’s “Scandal.” The big sister in our minds also shared how an all-girl school education taught her to embrace relationships with women and not compete with them, how she was a late bloomer to the fashion game and the reason why she’s keeping events in her personal life, like her new marriage, hush-hush.
Check out Kerry’s Paley Center interview below to gear up for Thursday night’s “Scandal” premiere (ABC, 10|9c)!
On her “Scandal” alter ego, Olivia Pope:
“I knew that I had never seen a woman like this on television before. Somebody who so clearly embodied the extremes of feminine identity. Kind of that modern, workplace woman who has to be fierce to survive in a man’s world, and also would be the romantic, heartbroken woman who longs to be partnered and live a personal life that is fulfilling. I had never seen those two identities combined into one character. And the writing was so elegant. I remember getting to that last scene where she says, ‘Sweet baby,’ and you realize that Olivia and the president had been together, and I threw my script across the room like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So I was really in. I was a fan, I was a Gladiator from day one.”
On being a role model vs. playing a character with questionable values:
“I just never gravitated toward playing perfect people, because I just don’t think that’s real, and it’s not human. I think there’s a time in our history, particularly as African American actors or as women, that we felt like we can only play a certain type of role, because there are so many negative stereotypes to the contrary. But I felt like for me that my responsibility has almost been the opposite. It’s been to kind of often take a stereotype, like the teen mother or the prostitute or the drug addict, or the trans-woman, to take this thing that society looks on with a lot of judgment and make people take pause, and to see that person as a real human being who has feeling and has history, and is valuable.”
On being a good “Number 1”:
“I’ve been really lucky in my career that I’ve had good set behavior modeled to me. I’ve worked with actors who have been, the language for it in the business is “number 1” on the call sheet because you’re the number 1 character on the call sheet. Jamie Foxx is a phenomenal number 1. He is a model citizen and a leader. He feels like his job there is to not only do great work but to make everyone feel good about being there and to make sure other people do great work. I learned it from Forest Whitaker and Julia Stiles. Shonda Rhimes is a big part of it because she sets the tone, and she has something that she has probably talked about called the ‘No Asshole’ policy. She really vets. I mean I felt like I got vetted for the show the way I got vetted for the White House to work for the White House in real life.”
On her Emmy nomination and why black actors need more opportunity for lead roles:
“There was a lot of talk when I was blessed with the Emmy nomination. There was a lot of talk about the historic nature of that nomination, because it had almost been 20 years since a woman of color had been nominated. And no woman of color has ever won best actress for television. Not black woman, no woman of color has ever won. I think it’s important to say is that is not because of a lack of talent in the industry, that is because a lack of opportunity. It’s not that it’s been 20 years since there’s been an actress who could do what I’m doing It’s just that the job hasn’t been available. No network or studio has wanted to take the risk to put a woman of color in the number 1 position on a network television show.”
On why she values her intellect over looks:
“I was really lucky because I went to an all-girl school and that single sex education really helped me because I really learned to bond with women and to not compete with or compare myself as much because we were all allowed to be ourselves and be unique and kind of have our unique strengths. But I I always felt like my value was much more in my intellect than it was in my appearance, and so that’s what I spent time cultivating. And some of that I get from my mother , some of that comes from the schools that I went to, and some of that comes from probably insecurity. This feeling that my value is what’s on the inside, because what’s on the outside can’t really compete with other people, so I’ll place my focus there. Which I think has been a blessing for me. Because I’m not stupid.”
Who are Kerry’s role models? Keep reading!
Also On HelloBeautiful:
Celebs Tweet Their Thoughts About #JusticeForSandraBland
1. Jesse Williams
#SandraBland's treatment while attempting to travel freely on HER public roadways has been acknowledged as unlawful. She is already dead.
2. Taraji P. Henson
"SAY HER NAME #SandraBland"
3. Ava DuVernay
"'Why are you arresting me?' Because you know your rights. Because I can. Because no one'll believe you. #SandraBland"
4. Kim Kardashian
#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!
5. Jussie Smollet
"A loss 4 words. #SandraBlandMatters #BlackLivesMatter 👈🏿tell me this should change once the nation shows that we do. "
6. Snoop Dogg
🙏🌹. Sandra. Rip. 🌹🌹
7. K. Michelle
R.I.P to this queen. This could've been any of us. My prayers go out to her family. #sandrabland https://instagram.com/p/5fvlO_AhCf/
8. Gabrielle Union
SAY HER NAME!!! #SandraBland #SandraBland #SandraBland #SayHerName
"We must get to the cause of #sandrabland death because this CANNOT happen again #deathorfreedom"
10. David Banner
"When will we fight back. A man's duty on earth is to protect women and children. Where are the gangsters? Preachers? We need you. Please."
11. Nicki Minaj
"Rest In Peace #SandraBland"
12. Talib Kweli
"We the people ask @LorettaLynch to investigate #SandraBland #KimberleeRandleKing RETWEET "
Signs. Signs. Signs all around us. The Message is Here. #SandraBland
14. Missy Elliot
"When I look at the #SandraBland traffic video it brings so many emotions😳😢😡😡😤!"
15. Jessie J
"God bless your soul Sandra | #sandrabland | Change needs to come |Justice needs to be served | Heart… https://instagram.com/p/5fV79mQ0aw/ "
16. Jackee Harry
"It's time y'all, it's time.." #SandraBland #BlackLivesMatter
"In memory of #SandraBland these things don't make no kinda sense "
18. Holly Robinson Peete
I really don't look forward to having ANOTHER difficult conversation w my kids tonight...but here we go again😧💔 #SandraBland #SayHerName 😢
19. Jeffrey White
Sadly, doesn't matter by whose hand she died. Unjustified arrested set the outcome in motion. The state murdered her. #JusticeForSandraBland
Sandra could have been your mother, sister, aunt, friend or if she wasn't killed the community outreach advisor A&M. #SandraBland
21. Joan Smalls
"My heart is broken. Sending my deepest condolence to her family and friends. May you find Strength, Peace and Justice. When will this stop? #EqualityForAll #RIP #Why #SayHerName
22. Gladys Knight
Sandra Bland.... #SayHerName #SandraBland
23. Cara Delevigne
Things need to change NOW #SANDRABLAND #Justice #Equality
24. Meek Mill
"Rip to that young lady that lost her life about a traffic stop! 🙏 ima make sure I pray for her and her family! 🙏😄😄😄"