Pope wor­thy of your wor­ship

As Olivia Pope, she’s the fastest- talk­ing woman on TV. Kerry Wash­ing­ton draws breath to chat with Deb­bie Schipp

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TV -

KERRY Wash­ing­ton, diminu­tive, and fl aw­less, is on the set of Scan­dal, just me­tres from the “Oval Offi ce”. She’s in a cor­ner, sur­rounded by a pack of jour­nal­ists fi ring ques­tions, not a minder in sight.

Her Scan­dal al­ter- ego, Olivia Pope, a cri­sis man­age­ment ex­pert and force to be reck­oned with, would never leave a client stranded like this.

But Wash­ing­ton fi elds the rapid- fi re ques­tions with aplomb.

There’s a fl eet­ing thought that this is how Pope would han­dle it. But it’s not un­til months later when you dis­cover Wash­ing­ton, charm­ing, but no­to­ri­ously pri­vate, mar­ried NFL player Nnamdi Aso­mugha in June and kept it se­cret un­til July, that you re­alise she’s just as me­dia savvy as Pope.

But to­day, Wash­ing­ton is adamant that as much as she ad­mires the char­ac­ter that saw her nom­i­nated for an Emmy this year, they’re not so much alike.

Wash­ing­ton says Pope is cooler, smarter and more fear­less. Wash­ing­ton has a ready laugh and a more re­laxed ve­neer. She has been known to joke that un­like Olivia, she isn’t hav­ing an af­fair with the US pres­i­dent.

As sea­son two of Scan­dal plays out on Aus­tralian screens ( it’s into sea­son three in the US) Pope is a woman on top of her game pro­fes­sion­ally, but per­son­ally, seems set to un­ravel.

“She’s in some ways fi gur­ing out how to not just take care of other peo­ple but take care of her­self as well,” Wash­ing­ton says.

At 36, Wash­ing­ton is a woman on top of her game.

She’s a red car­pet dar­ling who is no stranger to crit­i­cal ac­claim, with a string of fi lm roles in­clud­ing Ray Charles’s wife, Della Bea Robin­son, in the fi lm Ray ( 2004), Idi Amin’s wife Kay in The Last King of Scot­land ( 2006) and For Col­ored Girls ( 2011) to her credit.

Two roles her tele­vi­sion role in Scan­dal and her fi lm role as Bradiün­hilda, Django’s wife, in Quentin Tarantino’s fi lm Django Un­chained have pro­pelled her to the next level.

Shoot­ing them was a chal­lenge, a bless­ing, and a re­minder of the fast pace of Scan­dal right down to the rapid- fi re di­a­logue.

“I jumped two cen­turies in two days,” Wash­ing­ton says.

“When I was done with Django and a char­ac­ter that has such a quiet dig­nity and came back to work on Scan­dal I was like, “I can’t move my mouth fast enough”.

“The fi rst day we were like, “I’m trip­ping over words, I don’t know how to speak this fast.”

She con­fesses she speaks at “Scan­dal pace” out­side work: “My friends are like, ‘ Slow down’.”

Slow­ing down, it seems, isn’t an op­tion for Wash­ing­ton.

As an African Amer­i­can woman, the stark dif­fer­ence be­tween her Django and Scan­dal personas is far from lost on Wash­ing­ton.

“Ac­cord­ing to our con­sti­tu­tion, my Django char­ac­ter was three- fifths of a hu­man be­ing, whereas you could ar­gue Olivia is one of the most pow­er­ful women in the United States be­cause of the way she has the pres­i­dent’s ear,” she says. “It was phe­nom­e­nal to ex­plore one woman who des­per­ately needs to be saved and the other who does the sav­ing ev­ery week. I feel in­cred­i­bly lucky as an African Amer­i­can and a woman to live in a time where I get to tell those sto­ries about such dif­fer­ent kinds of ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Olivia may be hav­ing an af­fair with the US pres­i­dent in Scan­dal, but it’s her scenes with Jeff Perry’s Cyrus that Wash­ing­ton cher­ishes most. Ironic, given the two char­ac­ters have a re­la­tion­ship best de­scribed as “fren­e­mies”.

“Any time I read a scene with Jeff Perry I just re­joice, be­cause it’s like a mas­ter­class,” she says. “I love our char­ac­ters’ re­la­tion­ship, be­cause in some ways it’s one of Olivia’s most in­ti­mate.”

Wash­ing­ton says the beauty of Scan­dal is that thanks to cre­ator Shonda Rhimes ( Grey’s

Anatomy) “both we and the view­ers don’t know what’s com­ing next”.

“When you work in Shonda- land you don’t get an out­line of the sea­son. We are shocked week to week it’s like, Where can we pos­si­bly go now’?”

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