Kerry Wash­ing­ton dishes on ev­ery­one’s favourite guilty plea­sure on tele­vi­sion.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA MAN­DELL

KERRY Wash­ing­ton rolls up in jeans and flats. They’re de­signer flats, but this is off- duty mum mode, at least un­til the Scan­dal star emerges from her trailer a bit later in a chic pat­terned crop top, high- waisted skirt, glit­tery heels and vi­o­let lips.

It’s fair to say Olivia Pope, the fic­tional Wash­ing­ton fixer the ac­tress has steered to two Emmy nom­i­na­tions, has a dif­fer­ent take on work­wear.

Just sneak into Olivia Pope’s closet. “It’s nuts,” Wash­ing­ton says on the set, hav­ing un­locked the door to her char­ac­ter’s mas­sive wardrobe.

Look around the gi­ant space and see over­flow­ing racks of luxe cloth­ing in muted tones: rows of dove­g­rey and pow­der- blue cash­mere sweaters, coun­ters hold­ing cream and shell- pink Prada bags and stacks of boxed Manolo Blah­nik heels.

“The other day I had this re­ally beau­ti­ful brown suit on and ev­ery­body was like, ‘ Whoa, we haven’t seen brown in awhile!’ she says. “I was like, ‘ I know, I think not since Sea­sonTwo.’” Clothes say a lot, es­pe­cially on

Scan­dal. “For a cou­ple of sea­sons things got very black and white in her world, and I think there’s a lit­tle bit of nu­ance back into her world and into her ide­ol­ogy,” Wash­ing­ton says.

“Nu­ance” is an­other way of say­ing that in Sea­son Five, Olivia and Pres­i­dent Fitzger­ald Grant ( Tony Gold­wyn) have fi­nally bit­ten the bul­let and gone pub­lic with their il­licit re­la­tion­ship.

So far this sea­son, Fitz has de­manded a di­vorce from the first lady ( Bellamy Young); Congress has be­gun scream­ing for an im­peach­ment; and Olivia is now known as “Amer­ica’s Mis­tress,” sub­jected to slut- sham­ing and a me­dia storm.

Wash­ing­ton has no idea where any of this is go­ing. She ( and the rest of the cast) finds out Scan­dal’s plot “episode to episode,” she says. “There are times when we have a ta­ble read on the day that we’re start­ing a new episode and you have to mem­o­rise it im­me­di­ately.”

Here’s cre­ator Shonda Rhimes’ ver­sion of how that goes down:

“My con­tract with the ac­tors is, I will present you with the script, you will say ev­ery word in the script,” she says. “I will never tell you how to say the word or what the in­ten­tion is un­der the scene or what we need.

“And then the beauty of it is then I get to go into the edit­ing room and watch the scene sort of come out on the other side of the sound­stage, as I say, and see what the ac­tors did with it. And then I run up­stairs to the writ­ers room, and I go ‘ Oh my God, you all ... they’re play­ing it this way! And it’s won­der­ful.”

The writ­ers have been toy­ing with Olivia and Fitz for years. In Sea­son Three, the pres­i­dent dan­gled a se­cret hide­away in Ver­mont where they could fade from the pub­lic eye af­ter his term. But much has changed. “What’s true on our show is what’s true in life,” Wash­ing­ton says. “That once you com­mit to a re­la­tion­ship, that’s the be­gin­ning, not the end. And so it is an en­tirely new be­gin­ning for Fitz and Olivia to ex­ist in a way they’ve never ex­isted be­fore.”

Pre- Scan­dal, Wash­ing­ton was fa­mous, but noth­ing like now. She had juicy roles in movies such as

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Ray and The Last King Of Scot­land, had swung by Bos­ton Le­gal and made the req­ui­site stop on Law & Or­der. Wash­ing­ton’s also been a fash­ion favourite for years, but now? She’s a su­per­star. Gold­wyn says he has watched her hu­mil­ity and mar­veled. Most in her po­si­tion, he says, “be­come a lit­tle crazy,” suc­cumb­ing to the trap­pings of their fame and im­por­tance.

Not so with Wash­ing­ton, whose film ca­reer con­tin­ued to rise with 2012’ s Django Un­chained.

She is ac­tive in char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ours, was ap­pointed to the Pres­i­dent’s Com­mit­tee on the Arts and part­nered with All­state Foun­da­tion’s Pur­ple Purse ini­tia­tive, which raises money and aware­ness for fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy for vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“The No. 1 rea­son women stay in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships is be­cause they don’t have the where­withal to take care of them­selves fi­nan­cially,” she says. “So All­state Foun­da­tion has put to­gether an en­tire cur­ricu­lum to help women be self- sup­port­ing – be­cause it’s not only the rea­son they stay, but it’s also the No. 1 rea­son peo­ple go back.”

Gold­wyn says “there’s al­most no one I know like Kerry. Maybe Tom Hanks. That’s the only other per­son I knew be­fore he was su­per- fa­mous who be­came a mega icon su­per­star who’s as nor­mal as he ever was.”

How has life changed for Scan­dal’s stars?

“Peo­ple have houses they didn’t have, and cars they didn’t have,” Wash­ing­ton says. “I have a hus­band, I have a child. We’ve all changed so much in the last five years. We’ve re­ally grown up to­gether.” ( She mar­ried for­mer NFL cor­ner­back Nnamdi Asomugha in a hush- hush cer­e­mony in June 2013. Ten months later, they wel­comed a daugh­ter, Is­abelle.)

Kids are wel­come at work. On the sets of both Scan­dal and the Rhime­spro­duced How To Get Away With

Mur­der, for in­stance, “Kerry and Vi­ola ( Davis) were build­ing play­rooms so that you can have your chil­dren around,” says Rhimes, who lob­bied for day­care cen­tres for her shows but was turned down, she says, be­cause of in­sur­ance con­cerns.

Still, “the cul­ture in my of­fice is, bring your baby to work. Breast- feed in the writer’s room. We don’t care,” Rhimes says.

Dur­ing last sum­mer’s Scan­dal break, Wash­ing­ton kept work­ing, play­ing Anita Hill in the HBO film

Con­fir­ma­tion. It’s not an Anita Hill film, she says. “It is a movie about the hear­ings” for Clarence Thomas’s con­fir­ma­tion as jus­tice, be­gin­ning “the day Thur­good Mar­shall re­signs” as his pre­de­ces­sor.

Wash­ing­ton worked through the sum­mer with pur­pose; it meant a lot to her to tell this story.

“I re­ally took the last two hia­tuses

to ex­pe­ri­ence the ex­pan­sion of my life. I got mar­ried and went on my hon­ey­moon two years ago, and then last ( year) I ba­si­cally was on ma­ter­nity leave be­cause my daugh­ter re­ally timed her­self per­fectly for our hia­tus.” Wash­ing­ton laughs. “And so this hia­tus it was time for me to do a movie.” Even Olivia Pope can’t have it all Olivia Pope hasn’t even got­ten around to con­tem­plat­ing moth­er­hood yet. The political pro is still grap­pling with whether or not she can have Fitz and her ca­reer, let alone a child.

And even a dynamo like Pope con­tends with racism. On a re­cent episode, dog- whis­tle pol­i­tics took cen­trestage, with Scan­dal’s TV pun­dits de­ploy­ing coded racial lan­guage to call “the pres­i­dent’s girl­friend” “well- spo­ken” ( the un­spo­ken in­fer­ence: “for a black woman”), “sassy” and a woman who ( de­spite an ex­tremely ex­pen­sive in­ter­na­tional education) “pulled her­self up by her boot­straps.”

Rhimes said she and Wash­ing­ton didn’t speak about ex­pos­ing Olivia to baked- in racism be­fore shoot­ing. “Both of us un­der­stand what dog- whis­tle pol­i­tics are,” she says. “Both of us have been in that sit­u­a­tion. Both of us are black women. Both of us know ex­actly what that feels like.”

Wash­ing­ton was in the au­di­ence when Vi­ola Davis made his­tory as the first black woman to win the Best Ac­tress award at the Emmy last year. “The only thing that sep­a­rates women of colour from any­one else is op­por­tu­nity,” Davis said in ac­cept­ing the award. Cam­eras cut to Wash­ing­ton, who had tears in her eyes.

To­day, Wash­ing­ton says she can’t be­lieve her “in­sane luck” to have opted for tele­vi­sion dur­ing its “golden age” of qual­ity and in­clu­siv­ity. Sure, “it’s not per­fect,” she says. “I love that line when ( Em­mys host) Andy ( Sam­berg) was like, ‘ Racism is over! ( Dra­matic beat) Don’t factcheck that.’ it was one of my favourite lines of the night.”

The end of Scan­dal?

Where does Scan­dal go from here? The soapy drama’s rat­ings have dipped 9% in Sea­son Five, but it’s still a top drama, es­pe­cially among young adults..

“Shonda has said pub­licly that she sees the end to the show. This is not a show that’s sup­posed to be around for 20 years,” says Wash­ing­ton. “In the life of a show when you get to sea­son five you know, you’re not the new show any­more.”

How soon could the end come call­ing? Wash­ing­ton’s con­tract is likely up as early as May 2017. But Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy is still plug­ging along in its 12th sea­son.

“There’s a plan in place,” Rhimes says. “I know where the show ends and I know where all of our sea­sons end. The road map to get­ting there be­comes in­ter­est­ing af­ter that.”

Just don’t worry about Olivia. If any­one, Fitz is the one who “needs to be saved in the middle of the movie,” Rhimes says.

And Pope? She’s in one long trust­fall with Rhimes and what Wash­ing­ton calls their “fear­less and bril­liant” writ­ers.

“From Day One of choos­ing to do this show, a lot of my work has been in trust­ing this jour­ney,” Wash­ing­ton says. “I’m con­stantly clos­ing my eyes and fall­ing back­ward into our writ­ers. And they’re back there ready to hold us up all the time.” – USA To­day/ Tribune News Ser­vice

Scan­dal Sea­son Five airs ev­ery Fri­day at 9pm on Star World ( Astro Ch 711).

Photo: ABC Stu­dios

2 Wash­ing­ton is mar­ried to re­tired NFL player Asomugha. — AP


1 Scan­dal stars ( from left) Young as First Lady Mel­lie Grant, Darby Stanch­field as Abby Whe­lan, Jeff Perry as Cyrus, Gold­wyn as Pres­i­dent Fitzger­ald Grant, Wash­ing­ton as Olivia Pope, Scott Fo­ley as Jake Bal­lard, Joshua Malina as David Rosen, Guillermo Diaz as Huck and Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins. — ABC Stu­dios


3 Olivia ( Wash­ing­ton) and the Pres­i­dent ( Gold­wyn) have fi­nally bit­ten the bul­let and gone pub­lic with their il­licit re­la­tion­ship. — ABC Stu­dios

4 In late Jan­uary, Wash­ing­ton was named Har­vard Univer­sity’s Hasty Pud­ding The­atri­cals’ Woman Of The Year. She went on stage and did her best im­per­son­ation of singer Tina Turner. — AP


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