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Kerry Washington takes D.C.

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Your character Olivia Pope is an unapologetically ballsy crisis-management expert, but she isn’t so good at managing her personal life. Is that fun to play?
I was definitely interested in the dichotomy and complexity of the two sides of her that are so different — the public Olivia Pope and the private Olivia Pope. You start to see as the season goes on that there is a gray area. But I definitely was really intrigued by a woman who could be so confident and powerful and empowered and smart in her professional life, and in her private life be much more torn and struggling.

A big debate around the office is whether we love or hate President Grant [Goldwyn]. What’s your take?
There were actual yelling arguments in the hair and makeup trailer about this — whether or not he’s a good guy or a bad guy. It was really exciting to hear how invested other people were — although sometimes I just kept wondering when I was going to get my hair done. But it was exciting because none of us knew [the whole story]. When you work with [creator] Shonda Rhimes, you don’t get an outline for the season. There was one week where a stylist refused to do Tony’s hair because she was so upset with [his character].

She was probably still bitter because he killed Sam Wheat [Patrick Swayze] in Ghost.
[Laughs] Poor Tony! But I will tell you that there was another day where the hair and makeup girls were swooning and talking about how hot and wonderful he is.

Tell me about working with Shonda Rhimes, the woman behind this show, Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice. What do you think makes her so good at what she does?
In life and in art, we sometimes want to categorize something or someone as good or bad. And I think the truth is usually somewhere in the gray area. Shonda is courageous in her writing because she’s not afraid of the gray area. She’s not afraid of the complexities.

Switching gears, you’re working with Quentin Tarantino right now on his slavery-era Western movie, Django Unchained. What’s that like?
I’m not at liberty to talk about it too much, but it’s a profound experience for sure. You know, I cried when I got the job. I don’t remember ever doing that on the phone with another director, but when he called to offer me the role, I cried.

What more can you tell us about your character Broomhilda, who is married to Django [Jamie Foxx]?
They’ve been separated because of the realities of slavery, so the film is very much an epic cowboy film [about] Jamie’s character, Django, doing whatever it takes to rescue his wife.

Our favorite rumor about you is that Michelle Obama put your name on her White House ”ban list” for flirting with President Obama. Discuss.
It’s so silly. But it’s all very interesting, because with the introduction of [the newspaper reporter] Gideon [Brendan Hines] on the show, you can see that the media are going to start to play a role in all of this. The relationship between Olivia Pope and the media is a big one. It’s actually been fascinating to learn more about how all that works.

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