‘Being Black Is So Exciting:’ Kerry Washington On Why She’s Not Interested In Living In A Post-Racial World
During a recent interview with The Guardian, Kerry Washington opened up about the challenges of being a Black woman in Hollywood, her role as Olivia Pope on popular ABC drama, Scandal and why she isn’t crazy about the idea of living in a post-racial world. Check out some highlights from her interview below.
On Olivia Pope:
“She’s so much cooler than I am, so much smarter, so much more powerful, so much more fearless. I’m not going to tell you about yourself or try to manipulate you.” She chuckles. “I’m definitely not her. She is based on a real-life person, though – and that person is pretty badass.”
On the real Olivia Pope, Judy Smith:
“So it’s like, one week she’s on set with us, the next she’s in an undisclosed location doing work we can’t know about.” Washington has a conference call with Smith before filming each episode and the show’s writers “come up with the most scandalous crisis situations they can think of, then say, ‘Judy, what would you do? How would you fix that?'”
On her reluctance to accept a television role:
“I thought, a network TV drama? No way, no way. I have a thriving film career.
“But then I read the Scandal script and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m screwed. This is so good.’ Then I got really scared, because I did feel like it was written for me; you know, in some divine way, this was mine. But there were 15 other actresses who felt the same. Shonda auditioned everyone and their mother, because for African American actresses this was the glass slipper – so she let everyone try it on.”
On the correlation between ‘Scandal’s’ success and Barack Obama’s presidency:
“Well, it could have been written pre-Obama, because Judy Smith worked in the George Bush White House. But would it have made it to air? Would people have tuned in? That I don’t know.”
On why she doesn’t subscribe to post-racial philosophy:
“I don’t believe in post-racial. It’s like saying we should live in a post-gender world. But I love being a woman! I am interested in living in a post-sexist world and feel the same about race. I don’t want to live in a post-race world because being black is really exciting. I mean it’s who I am. I’m a woman, black, from New York, Aquarius – these are things that create who I am. I’m interested in living in a post-racist world, where being African American doesn’t dictate limitations on what I can do – but I don’t want to live post-race. Our differences are so fascinating and wonderful. We don’t want to all be the same. Who wants that? Hitler did, but who else?”
On being a Black woman in Hollywood:
“There are two sides to this coin. I have had, and still do, experiences where someone will say, ‘You know, we just don’t really see this character as black. We don’t want to go black with her.’ Some of it I respect, because this is a visual medium, so I don’t believe in colour-blind casting. But I think sometimes people make that decision out of fear, or laziness, or just not wanting to have to travel down roads that aren’t familiar.”
“It has its downsides – there have been things I’ve loved but I haven’t been able to be a part of – but it’s also had its upsides.”