Kerry Washington Talks Femininity, Race, and Olivia Pope for Vanity Fair August 2013

By  July 02, 2013

Every Thursday night From September 27, 2012 to May 16, 2013, my focus shifted to one thing: Scandal. From writer Shonda Rhimes’ skill in manipulating plots, to an ensemble cast’s ability in luring hearts and minds, the saga surrounding Olivia Pope was one that took hold of the nation—and its television screens. Off-air, Kerry Washington remains just as captivating as the Washington D.C. fixer she plays on the ABC soap. The award-winning actress—whose primetime spot has critics buzzing of Emmy glory—offered her take on this fascination, and her gripping character, for the August 2013 issue of Vanity Fair.

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“The fact that white women can see this woman of color as an aspirational character is revolutionary, I think, in the medium of television,” she said of her character’s international appeal, particularly in South Africa. “I don’t think white women would feel that way about Olivia if her identity as a woman, period, wasn’t first in their mind.”

Those words offer a refreshing take on race and gender from the normally superficial world of Hollywood. Considering Vanity Fair has coined Washington “the most intriguing star” on “the most intriguing show,” her depth comes as little surprise.

Washington’s Norman Jean Roy cover and corresponding David Kamp interview will hit newsstands on July 9; until then, fall under her spell (even more, if that’s possible!) with these snippets from her spread.

On Olivia Pope’s dual nature:
“What I think is cool about Olivia is that she fully owns being a woman. There’s a very nurturing sense of ‘I’m going to take care of you—don’t worry about it. I’m gonna be your mom in this situation. You come stay in my office, have a cup of tea, and let my gladiators take care of you.’ There’s something very maternal about it. But there’s also something very executive about her, and I mean ‘executive’ in a presidential way.”

On her socially-conscious upbringing:
“My becoming a voting citizen was celebrated the way other people would celebrate a sweet 16. My parents took me out to dinner, and we talked about who I was going to vote for.”

On how her background as a safe-sex advocate for teenagers prepared her for her acting career:
“We would stay in character after the show, and the audience would interact with us. It taught me the importance of really understanding everything about who you’re playing, because you never knew what question was going to come.”