Wash­ing­ton’s new chal­lenge is Cap­i­tal’s Hill

The Press - The Box - - COVER STORY - Los An­ge­les Times

KERRY Wash­ing­ton was just 14 when the ground­break­ing Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas in­ves­ti­ga­tion riv­eted a na­tion.

Now the woman best known for bring­ing Wash­ing­ton to its knees each week as the go-to Belt­way fixer in the hit TV se­ries Scan­dal finds her­self play­ing the woman who shook up the po­lit­i­cal class in HBO’s Con­fir­ma­tion.

Wash­ing­ton por­trays Hill in the film that cov­ers the 1991 mon­u­men­tal sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions that changed the way we talk about vic­tims rights and race re­la­tions.

Hill, a young AfricanAmer­i­can law pro­fes­sor, was thrust into the spot­light af­ter she ac­cused her for­mer boss and Supreme Court nom­i­nee Clarence Thomas (Wen­dell Pierce) of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Wash­ing­ton down­plays the idea that play­ing two women em­broiled in the pol­i­tics of the U.S. cap­i­tal has yielded a cyn­i­cal view on D.C.

‘‘I think I’m really in­spired by the dif­fer­ence that a per­son can make in Wash­ing­ton and the kind of cul­tural shift that hap­pened af­ter the events that take place in our film,’’ says Wash­ing­ton, who met with Hill in pre­par­ing for the role.

‘‘I think it’s really in­spir­ing to think about how much changed, how we were all trans­formed by these events in terms of our lan­guage chang­ing around sex­ual ha­rass­ment, around vic­tims’ rights, around how we think about the work­place, how we think about women, how we think about race, how we think about power.’’

Di­rected by Rick Fa­muyiwa ( Dope) from a script by Su­san­nah Grant, the film also stars Greg Kin­n­ear as Joe Bi­den, who was then chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and presided over the Thomas con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings.

De­spite her age at the time of the pro­ceed­ings, Wash­ing­ton says she un­der­stood there was sig­nif­i­cance to what was un­fold­ing.

‘‘It was one of the first times that we all stood still and be­gan to par­take in what we now think of as a 24-hour news cy­cle,’’ Wash­ing­ton says. ‘‘My mother was an aca­demic who had very pas­sion­ate feel­ings about it as a woman of colour. My dad had very pas­sion­ate feel­ings about it as a black man. And I was im­mersed in how com­pli­cated and how com­plex the is­sues were, from a very young age.’’

Wash­ing­ton says that ahead of pro­duc­tion on the film, the cast and crew had to sit through a sex­ual ha­rass­ment ori­en­ta­tion, which she re­ferred to as a ‘‘sur­real’’ mo­ment.

‘‘Some of the is­sues are still rear­ing their head in terms of gen­der and in terms of race and how we un­der­stand those things,’’ she says.

‘‘So I think, really, the out­come of what hap­pened was that the con­ver­sa­tion be­gan and we want to make sure that that con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues.’’

Kerry Wash­ing­ton says she is in­spired by the dif­fer­ence that a per­son like Anita Hill, who she plays in the new TV movie Con­fir­ma­tion, can make.

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