Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content
Emmys 2017
Every unforgettable moment, every gorgeous dress.Click here


Kerry Washington: A double vision

From playing with the boys on ”Scandal” to playing a slave in ”Django Unchained,” Kerry Washington tells us how costumes, hair, and makeup helped her transform for her latest roles

Posted on

”I’m never completely clear about a character until I have the shoes,” says Kerry Washington. For Olivia Pope, the high-powered political lawyer of ABC’s Scandal, that means designer heels, but in Django Unchained (out Dec. 25), Washington’s character, a slave in the antebellum South, is fortunate just to have footwear.”It’s crazy to compare this person who’s barefoot in the woods in a dress covered in mud to this other person who eats her snacks carefully because she doesn’t want to get it on her Armani.”

Playing two roles at opposite ends of history can feel a bit schizophrenic, and Washington didn’t have a lot of time to flip that mental switch. By the time Django reached its final weekend of production, Scandal‘s second season had already begun shooting. ”I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” Washington admits. ”It was a leap of nearly 200 years in two days.”

Luckily, the characters’ drastically differing appearances helped make that leap less daunting. As Broomhilda, the wife of Django (Jamie Foxx), Washington required minimal makeup and hairstyling. ”Often we barely used anything,” says Django‘s makeup head, Heba Thorisdottir. ”Just some highlights and shadows.” Returning to the set of Scandal, Washington found that lipstick, mascara, and a blowout got her back into Olivia’s mindset. ”I remember sitting up in my makeup chair, looking into the mirror, and thinking, ‘There she is!”’ she says. ”The last time I wore my natural hair in a film was probably Save the Last Dance.”

The clothes also make the women. Even when Broomhilda’s garbed in a romantic dress (pictured at right) instead of her usual rags, her image is more about how Django imagines her as he rides to her rescue than how she sees herself. ”[Director Quentin Tarantino] said to me, ‘She has to be a vision [in this scene],”’ says costume designer Sharen Davis. ”So the first thing I thought of was that she should be the sun and dressed in this beautiful radiant yellow.” Olivia’s clothing, on the other hand, is an extension of who she is: powerful, but still feminine. ”I did make the choice that Olivia wears the pants — metaphorically and actually,” says Washington of setting the sartorial tone. ”But we are always tailoring the suits so that you have a sense that she’s proud to be a woman in a world that’s still mainly run by men.” Finding off-the-rack outfits that fit that description is surprisingly difficult for Scandal‘s wardrobe maestro Lyn Paolo. ”I don’t know why the fashion industry feels like women have to dress like men, but it’s a struggle,” Paolo says.

For Washington, the differences between the two characters were never so clear as during ”last look,” when the actor is given a once-over to make sure everything is in place. Or, in the case of Django, to make sure it was out of place. ”They would [usually] come in and make me look worse,” she says. ”More mud, more dirt, more glycerin so that I looked sweatier. As opposed to Scandal, where they pick off every last piece of dust or lint from my immaculate suit.”


”I’m always on the lookout for something feminine,” says Paolo. ”If I can find a suit with a peplum or that has a little curviness to it, I’m drawn to it instantly.”

Natural Beauty

”Kerry’s gorgeous, so we don’t have to pump up her look too much,” says Scandal makeup artist Sheri Knight. ”We try to keep it all in neutral tones.”

Gilding the Lady

”Olivia’s jewelry helps to add a softness,” says costume designer Lyn Paolo. ”Especially when she has to make tough decisions.”

Color Scheme

Olivia wears soft hues, ”a palette that doesn’t look like [she’s] coming after [you],” says Washington. ”Her words will be coming after [you].”

Political Platforms

”When I came back after doing Django, I put those high heels on and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I know how to walk in these anymore,”’ Washington remembers.

Curve Appeal

”We make sure you know that Olivia has a waist,” says the actress. ”Because those suits can get boxy.”

Django Unchained

”Quentin was very hands-on,” says Davis. ”I would do these sketches, but I would also have freeze-frames from the spaghetti Westerns he had me watch to go along with the illustrations so I could show him exactly where the ideas came from.”

Authentic Coiffure

”We wanted to use styles of the time,” says Django hair-department head Camille Friend. ”Ones we never get to see on an African-American woman [today].”

Bright Side

”Because this is a Tarantino movie, the dresses are all a little above reality,” says costume designer Sharen Davis of this iridescent silk frock.

Dress Code

”Broomhilda’s clothes aren’t her own,” says Washington. ”When we’d talk about her, it was always ‘What would [her oppressor]…or the woman of the house dress her in?”’

Bare Soles

”I was barefoot or in flat shoes for months and months,” the actress says. ”It’s a different walk, and a different woman who does that walk.”

We shine the spotlight on the top behind-the-scenes talent helping to create TV, movie, and music magic through set design, costumes, and more

Georgina Chapman Cofounder/designer Marchesa
My Design Inspiration

”I originally trained as a costume designer, so films have always been a great source of inspiration for me. I recently saw Les Enfants du Paradis by Marcel Carné and absolutely loved it. It was so stylistic and visually impactful; I left feeling incredibly inspired.”