Kerry Washington On ‘Scandal’s’ New Season, Why She Doesn’t Mind Playing A Mistress, And More [INTERVIEW]

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The Paley Center For Media Presents She's Making Media: Kerry Washington

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)!

Kerry Washington The Paley Center For Media Presents She's Making Media: Kerry Washington

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!

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