KERRY Washington is breaking new ground. The 35-year-old is the first African-American female lead in a major US television drama since 1974’s Get Christie Love! starring Teresa Graves.
Washington, best known for roles in Boston Legal and The Last King of Scotland, plays crisis manager Olivia Pope in Scandal.
The political drama comes from Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice writer/executive producer Shonda Rhimes.
Olivia Pope can be fierce. Viewers will have mixed feelings about her. Are you comfortable with that?
I really love playing complicated women. Shonda says she loves to write flawed characters because the reality is that we are all flawed. She writes real people who are three-dimensional and that is a joy for any actor.
Not a lot of TV shows have been set in the world of politics. is an exception. Was that a concern?
The West Wing The thing that is so cool about crisis management is that you never know who’s going to walk through your door. So setting the show in Washington DC is exciting because it is the nexus of power for so many different industries and fields. From show to show, who walks into Olivia’s office is unpredictable.
Howclosely is Olivia based on (crisis management expert) Judy Smith?
I’m very blessed that Judy is on the show (as producer) and she’s very hands-on. She is helping us to understand this high-stakes world and the strategic thinking that goes into it. There are ways that Olivia is very different from Judy, though.
Howwould you describe Olivia?
Olivia is the smartest person in the room. Her professional life is in control but her personal life is a mess. She is not who she seems to the outside world. It was really exciting to wrap my head around those contradictions and to make both sides of this woman very real.
You are starring in
you work in movies, are a
L’Oreal spokeswoman and a political activist, speaking at this year’s Democratic National Convention. How do you manage it all?
I have been really lucky to be surrounded by women who are great multi-taskers that believe in being of service on many levels. I don’t know how Shonda sleeps at night with characters from three shows running around in her head. Scandal, Channel 7, Monday,