Is there anyone more on fleek than Kerry Washington? When she is not starring as the savvy crisis fixer Olivia Pope on ABC’s red hot political drama series, Scandal, the petite force of nature has expanded into executive producing. Working on a comedy drama series with Scandal executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, Washington is also at the helm of HBO’s Confirmation, playing real life attorney/college professor Anita Hill. Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his 1991 confirmation hearings stirred up a barrage of strong emotions, and kept people riveted to their television sets at that time – expect to have to have a similar reaction when you watch on April 16th.
Kerry is a refreshingly honest woman; just yesterday she gracefully took Adweek to task for photoshopping her cover photo. “You know me. I’m not one to be quiet about a magazine cover,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I was taken aback by the cover. Look, I’m no stranger to Photoshopping. It happens a lot. In a way, we have become a society of picture adjusters – who doesn’t love a filter?!? And I don’t always take these adjustments to task but I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it’s a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling.”
Looking gorgeous in her Dolce & Gabbana dress, The Gloss talked to Washington at the film’s Paramount Studios premiere.
The Gloss: The [Supreme Court] hearings were such a cultural phenomenon, and really put the issue of sexual harassment front and center.
Kerry Washington: I think the film is a lot about courage and power, being up against forces that feel more powerful than you. It was one of the things that really drew me to the project and to the role because I feel like on Scandal, I play somebody who’s always the most powerful person in the room, and I thought, ‘What about playing somebody who’s on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to DC politics?’
How was your role different as a producer versus an actress?
KW: You know it’s funny, the first third of the process, my focus was not on my character. My focus was on helping to build a story and develop a script where all the characters were fully realized and where you felt compassionate and pulled toward all of the big players. Really making a well rounded film. And the last third of the process was that as well, in the editing process, making sure it was balanced and fair. The middle, the second third that was really about giving my all to Anita Hill. So it was interesting being able to put the hat on and take it off. I remember at a point in prep, when I looked at my co-producers and said, ‘Ok, it’s on you now! I gotta go be her!’
What were the similarities in playing Anita?
KW: One of the things we bonded on initially was the fact that neither one of us desired to live a life in the public eye. Privacy is really important to the both of us. But because of the circumstances of our lives, our private lives have become public. And that’s not something as many of you, that I relish. It’s definitely not something that she does.
Do you want to step behind the cameras more?
KW: Sure! You have to stay tuned! I have a few things in the works!
With your character on Scandal, what would you like Olivia to get involved in next?
KW: I really trust our writers. They are so gifted and so courageous. I want what they want, I am on this ride…I am glad that I have such respect and trust for them as artists who tell our story. Because I really just get to kinda lean into that. The words they write us are Shakespearean, operatic, they are really tremendous.
What’s it like to work with Shonda?
KW: Shonda is a rockstar and a superhero. If you have not read her book, The Year of Yes, you should definitely do so! It’s one of my most favorite books I have ever read and I love books! She is a superstar! She is my personal superhero. I am on one show and I have one child, and she has three shows and three kids! I don’t know how she does it! What I love about the book is that she is such a private person; if you read that book you really know her.
What causes are you involved with?
KW: I work on a really important issue called The Purple Purse Campaign, which is where we design a purple purse every year to raise awareness around financial abuse and women’s financial literacy. So every fall, I help design a purple purse through the Allstate Foundation. Purple is the color for domestic violence awareness and a purse is the symbol for a woman’s financial well being. So that purse raises awareness and funding for ending financial abuse.
What are you doing to stay in shape?
KW: I love Pilates. And I just fell in love with spinning. It’s energizing and new.