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Entertainers of the Year: Kerry Washington

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Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington’s high-powered, high-energy superlawyer on Scandal, can’t afford to be tired, and this year neither could Washington. After an emotionally taxing shoot for the upcoming Django Unchained—in the role of Broomhilda, Jamie Foxx’s damsel in distress—the actress had only one weekend to make the transition back from playing a captured slave in the antebellum South to playing Pope, one of the most powerful women in contemporary America. (As well as the only black female lead on network television.)

“It was the hardest leap I’ve ever had to make,” says Washington. “Because I wasn’t going from myself to Olivia Pope, who is already vastly more intelligent than I am and vastly more powerful and sophisticated and cool. And I wasn’t going from myself to Broomhilda. It was going from Broomhilda to Olivia and my head was spinning for that first week on Scandal and a little bit longer.”

It wasn’t only her professional career that kept her busy. Washington’s efforts stumping for President Obama’s re-election campaign also helped to gobble up any free time she may have had. “I would have a photo shoot that would get cancelled and I’d immediately call the campaign and they’d say, ‘Get down to Florida!’” says Washington. “But that’s perfect, because I love to work.”

In fact, this has been a bit of a presidential year for her, even beyond her real-life work for the current Commander in Chief: Not only does Pope’s relationship with Scandal’s fictional President Fitzgerald continue to have new twists and turns in the second season (which was picked up for a full order by ABC last month), but her Django Unchained co-star Foxx went straight from playing opposite her to occupying the Oval Office in the upcoming thriller White House Down. Well, her name is Washington, after all. She laughs, “Maybe I was destined from birth.”

Read more:

‘Scandal’: Josh Malina takes EW behind the scenes in new video series

Kerry Washington: A Double Vision

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