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Kerry Washington

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Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington, Deliver Commencement Address GWU (8755052944) (cropped) (cropped).jpg
Washington in 2013
Kerry Marisa Washington

(1977-01-31) January 31, 1977 (age 43)
Alma materGeorge Washington University
  • Actress
  • producer
  • director
Years active1994–present
Nnamdi Asomugha (m. 2013)

Kerry Marisa Washington[1] (born January 31, 1977)[2][3][4] is an American actress, producer, and director. She gained wide public recognition for starring as crisis management expert Olivia Pope in the ABC drama series Scandal (2012–2018).[5] For her role, she received nominations for two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Her portrayal of Anita Hill in the HBO television political thriller film Confirmation (2016), earned her another Primetime Emmy Award nomination.

In film, Washington is known for her roles as Della Bea Robinson in Ray (2004), as Kay in The Last King of Scotland (2006), as Alicia Masters in the live-action Fantastic Four films of 2005 and 2007, and as Broomhilda von Shaft in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012). She has also starred in the independent films Our Song (2000), The Dead Girl (2006), Mother and Child (2009), Night Catches Us (2010), and American Son (2019).

Time magazine included Washington in its Time 100 list of 2014.[6] In 2018, Forbes named her the eighth highest-paid television actress.[7]

Early life[edit]

Washington was born in The Bronx, New York City, the daughter of Valerie, a professor and educational consultant, and Earl Washington, a real estate broker.[4][8][9] Her father's family is of African American origin, having moved from South Carolina to Brooklyn. Her mother's family is from Manhattan, and Washington has said that her mother is from a "mixed-race background and from Jamaica, so she is partly English and Scottish and Native American, but also descended from enslaved Africans in the Caribbean."[10][11][12] Through her mother, she is a cousin of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.[13]

Washington performed with the TADA! Youth Theater teen group and attended the Spence School in Manhattan from her pre-teen years[14] until graduating from high school in 1994.[15] At the age of 13, she was taken to watch Nelson Mandela speak at Yankee Stadium upon his release from prison.[14] She attended George Washington University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1998 with a double major in anthropology and sociology.[15][16] She also studied at Michael Howard Studios in New York City.[15]

In April 2016, Washington confirmed that, in the 1990s in New York, she learned to dance from Jennifer Lopez. During her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she told host Jimmy Fallon: "I've been taking dance for a long time, since I was a little girl. I had this very inspiring teacher named Larry Maldonado, for anybody from my neighborhood in The Bronx, he was our role model. ... And he had an awesome substitute teacher named Jennifer, who would sometimes step in and teach. But, then she left to move to Los Angeles and be on the TV show In Living Color. So, yes, I learned to dance from JLo!" Washington verified.[17][18]


1994–2009: Beginnings and breakthrough[edit]

Washington at the New York premiere of She Hate Me in 2004

Washington got her Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card as a requirement for a commercial that she starred in.[19] Washington made her screen debut in the ABC telefilm Magical Make-Over (1994).[15] She was in the cast of the 1996 PBS sketch comedy-style educational series Standard Deviants,[15] and she appeared in the short "3D" and the feature film Our Song in 2000.[15] She went on to appear in several movies, including Save the Last Dance (2001) and The Human Stain (2003). In 2002 she played Chris Rock's love interest in the spy thriller Bad Company, a film that represented a turning point for her, in that it was the first time in her career that she had made enough money annually to qualify for health insurance under SAG.[19]

In 2004, she played the female lead in Spike Lee's She Hate Me, and she received strong reviews for her performance. After 2004, she held parts in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Little Man (2006), I Think I Love My Wife (2007), and as a wife of 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the UK historical drama The Last King of Scotland (2006).[15] Washington has also appeared in the recurring role of Chelina Hall on the ABC television series Boston Legal,[15] and in several episodes of the A&E cable-TV series 100 Centre Street.[15] In 2007, she co-directed and appeared in the music video for hip-hop artist Common's song, "I Want You", the fourth single from his album Finding Forever[20] and became a spokesperson for L'Oréal, appearing in commercials and ads alongside fellow actresses, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Longoria, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Aishwarya Rai, Maya Karin and model Doutzen Kroes.[21]

Washington narrated the critically acclaimed documentary about the New Orleans-based teenage TBC Brass Band, From the Mouthpiece on Back. She also appears in Maxwell's "Bad Habits" video. In 2009, Washington performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.[22]

2010–2018: Scandal and critical acclaim[edit]

In 2010, Washington made her Broadway debut in the original production of David Mamet's play Race, alongside James Spader (with whom she worked on Boston Legal), David Alan Grier, and Richard Thomas. She also appeared as a part of the ensemble in Tyler Perry's 2010 drama film For Colored Girls.[15]

Washington at the premiere of Mother and Child at TIFF in 2009

In October 2011, it was confirmed that she would star in Quentin Tarantino's film Django Unchained, which was released in 2012 and received widespread critical acclaim.[23][24] She was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in June 2012 along with 175 other individuals.[25]

From April 2012 to April 2018, Washington starred in the ABC drama series Scandal, created by Shonda Rhimes, as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager who runs her own crisis management firm called Olivia Pope & Associates in Washington, D.C.. In this position, she worked for high-profile figures, most notably the President of the United States, who was also her on-off lover. The show was a commercial and critical success, and was called one of the most talked about drama series on Facebook and Twitter.[26][27][28] Washington's performance earned positive reviews, and in 2013, she won the award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the 44th NAACP Image Awards and was also presented with the NAACP President's Award.[29] The same year, she was named "Favorite actress" and Scandal "Favorite Drama" of the year at TV Guide's Magazine Fan Favorite Awards[30] and was also crowned 2013's "TV Star of the Year" by the editors of the magazine.[31]

For her work in the second season of Scandal, Washington was nominated for an Emmy at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards[32] and 66th Primetime Emmy Awards,[33] becoming the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 18 years.[32] She was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series as well as a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Drama Series.[34][35] The Boston Globe ranked Scandal tenth place of its list of "Top 10 political TV shows" in 2015.[36]

In addition to Washington's acting, her costumes as Olivia Pope attracted positive attention, prompting Vanity Fair to name the character one of "The Top Ten Best-Dressed TV Characters" in 2013.[37] According to the show's costume designer, Lyn Paolo, the success of Olivia Pope's wardrobe was based on "this idea of having [her character] wear such soft, feminine colors in a man's world".[38] In 2014, Washington and Paolo won the Influencer Award at the 2014 Ace Fashion Awards for Olivia Pope's stylish clothes on the show.[39]

In 2013, Washington ranked No. 2 in People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful people[40] and was named Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine.[41] The same year, she ranked No. 20 on Forbes magazine's annual list of the highest-paid actors in television and was announced as the new face of Neutrogena skin care.[42] Washington hosted Saturday Night Live on November 2, 2013, where she impersonated Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey in a cold opening sketch that satirized criticism of Saturday Night Live for not having had any black female cast members for many years.[43]

Washington at the French premiere of Django Unchained in 2013

Washington played the lead role in Confirmation, an HBO movie directed by Rick Famuyiwa about Anita Hill's testimony during Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, which aired in 2016.[44] For her role in Confirmation, Washington was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards,[45] as well as the Critics' Choice Awards' equivalent the same year. Confirmation was also nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie at the Emmys. That same year, Washington launched Simpson Street, a production company, which has an overall deal with ABC Studios.[46]

In 2017, Washington voiced a role in Cars 3.[47] In 2018, Washington made her directorial debut on Scandal, directing the tenth episode of the seventh season.[48] She also appeared as Olivia Pope in two episodes of How to Get Away with Murder, as part of a crossover with Scandal.[49] Scandal concluded after seven seasons in April 2018.[50] That same year, Washington starred in the Broadway play American Son written by Christopher Demos-Brown, following two parents arriving at a police station in the middle of the night looking for answers.[51]

2019–present: Continued success and acclaim[edit]

In 2019, Washington directed the seventh episode of the second season of Showtime's SMILF.[52] She then starred in Live in Front of a Studio Audience on ABC in a recreation of The Jeffersons, portraying the role of Helen Willis.[53] The same year, she reprised her role in the film adaptation of the Broadway play American Son, which she also executive produced, for Netflix.[54] The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2019, and was released on November 1, 2019.[55][56]

In 2020, Washington served as an executive producer on The Fight, a documentary film revolving around legal battles lawyers for the ACLU face during the Trump administration, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 30, 2020.[57][58] That same year, she served as an executive producer and starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, an adaptation of Celeste Ng's 2017 novel of the same name.[59][60] Washington directed the ninth episode of the fourth season of the HBO comedy series Insecure.[61]

Upcoming projects[edit]

Washington will next star in The Prom directed by Ryan Murphy for Netflix.[62] She is attached to star and executive produce Shadow Force opposite Sterling K. Brown for Lionsgate.[63] She is also attached to star and executive produce 24/7 directed by Eva Longoria for Universal Pictures.[64]

Personal life[edit]

Washington at George Washington University, where she addressed the graduates in 2013

Washington was engaged to actor David Moscow from October 2004 to March 2007.[65] Washington married NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha on June 24, 2013 in Hailey, Idaho.[66][67][68] They have a daughter and a son.[69][70][71]

As a sort of souvenir or memento, she usually tries to keep something from every character that she plays, such as an item of wardrobe or a piece of furniture from the house the character lived in.[72]

On May 19, 2013, she was the commencement speaker for her alma mater, George Washington University. Before giving her commencement address she was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.[73][74]


In 2007, Washington and other celebrities joined for the 2007 Lee National Denim Day, supporting the Women's Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.[75] In September 2012, Washington spoke at the Democratic National Convention in favor of re-electing Barack Obama, with her speech focusing on addressing voter apathy.[76]

Washington is also a supporter of LGBT rights. In August 2013, she was named an honorary chairperson of the GLSEN Respect Awards;[77] and she received the GLAAD Vanguard Award on March 21, 2015.[78][79] In June 2016, the Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando gay nightclub shooting; in the video, Washington and others told the stories of the people killed there.[80][81]

She is a member of the Creative Coalition; which is a board of actors, writers, musicians, and producers that explore issues that are at the forefront of national discourse.[82] She is also a member of V-Day, a global movement that brings awareness to violence against women and girls.[83] In March 2016, Washington and fellow ShondaLand colleagues, Ellen Pompeo, Viola Davis and Shonda Rhimes, appeared in a commercial endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.[84]



Washington at the Metropolitan Opera in 2010
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Our Song Lanisha Brown
3D Angie Short film
2001 Save the Last Dance Chenille
Lift Niecy
2002 Take the A Train Keisha Short film
Bad Company Julie
2003 The United States of Leland Ayesha
The Human Stain Ellie
Sin Kassie
2004 Against the Ropes Renee
She Hate Me Fatima Goodrich
Ray Della Bea Robinson
2005 Sexual Life Rosalie
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Jasmine
Fantastic Four Alicia Masters
Wait Maggie Short film
2006 Little Man Vanessa
The Last King of Scotland Kay Amin
The Dead Girl Rosetta
2007 I Think I Love My Wife Nikki Tru
Put It in a Book Sheila Short film
30,000 Leagues Under the Sea Medical Officer Marissa Brau
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Alicia Masters
2008 Woman in Burka Kerry Short film
Miracle at St. Anna Zana Wilder
Lakeview Terrace Lisa Mattson
2009 Life Is Hot in Cracktown Marybeth
Mother and Child Lucy
2010 Night Catches Us Patricia Wilson
For Colored Girls Kelly / Blue
2011 The Details Rebecca Mazzoni
2012 A Thousand Words Caroline McCall
Django Unchained Broomhilda von Schaft
2013 Peeples Grace Peeples
2017 Cars 3 Natalie Certain (voice)
2019 American Son Kendra Ellis-Connor Also executive producer
2020 The Fight None Executive producer
The Prom Ms. Greene Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1994 ABC Afterschool Special Heather Episode: "Magical Make-Over"
1996 Standard Deviants Kerry PBS educational series
2001 NYPD Blue Maya Young Episode: "Franco, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn"
Deadline Tina Johnson Episode: "The Undesirables"
Law & Order Allie Lawrence Episode: "3 Dawg Night"
100 Centre Street Unknown 5 episodes
2002 The Guardian Drea Westbrook Episode: "The Next Life"
2004 Wonderfalls Mahandra McGinty Unaired pilot
Strip Search Unknown Television film
2005–2006 Boston Legal Chelina Hall 5 episodes
2008 Psych Mira Gaffney Episode: "There's Something About Mira"
2009–2013 Project Runway Herself / Guest Judge 3 episodes
2010 Black Panther Princess Shuri
Baker Woman (voice)
Main role; 5 episodes
2012–2018 Scandal Olivia Pope Lead role; 124 episodes
Also producer
2013 Jimmy Kimmel Live Nerdy Girl Episode: "After The Oscars"
Saturday Night Live Herself / Host Episode: "Kerry Washington/Eminem"
2016 Confirmation Anita Hill Television film; also executive producer
2018 How to Get Away with Murder Olivia Pope 2 episodes
2019 Live in Front of a Studio Audience Helen Willis Episode: “Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons”
Also executive producer for “All in the Family and Good Times”[85]
2020 Little Fires Everywhere Mia Warren Lead role; 8 episodes
Also executive producer

As Director[edit]

Year Title Notes
2018 Scandal Episode: "The People v. Olivia Pope"
2019 SMILF Episode: "Smile More if Lying Fails"
2020 Insecure Episode: "Lowkey Trying"


Year Title Author Director Role Venue Ref.
2009 Race David Mamet David Mamet Susan Ethel Barrymore Theatre [86]
2018 American Son Christopher Demos-Brown Kenny Leon Kendra Booth Theater [87][88]

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Finn, Natalie (July 3, 2013). "Kerry Washington & Nnamdi Asomugha's Secret Wedding—See Their Marriage Certificate!". E! News. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  2. ^ "On This Day". The New York Times. January 31, 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
  3. ^ Finn, Natalie (May 2, 2014). "Kerry Washington Is a Mom! Check Out Baby Isabelle Amarachi Asomugha's Birth Certificate". E! News. Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016. Sidebar: Certificate of Live Birth: Isabelle Amarachi Asomugha (County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health). Gives Kerry Washington birth date. Archived from the original on May 2, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Note: states "Born January 5, 1977 (some sources cite 1975)…." at "Kerry Washington Biography (1977?- )". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Bricker, Tierney (May 13, 2011). "ABC picks up 'Charlie's Angels,' 'Good Christian Belles' and ten more". Archived from the original on May 5, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  6. ^ "Kerry Washington 2014 Time". Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  7. ^ Robehmed, Natalie (October 25, 2018). "Highest-Paid TV Actresses 2018: Sofia Vergara Tops Ranking Again With $42.5 Million". Forbes. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  8. ^ Stein, Ruthe (May 9, 2010). "Washington's 'Mother' instinct". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  9. ^ Collins, Lauren (October 24, 2004). "Kerry Washington: Politics and Shabu Shabu". New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  10. ^ Curtis, Nick (January 16, 2013). "Kerry Washington on making Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained". Evening Standard. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
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  16. ^ Natasha (October 15, 2012). "INSIDE Black Girls Rock! Red Carpet Arrivals & What You Can Expect From The Show". The YBF. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
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  18. ^ Lindig, Sarah (April 9, 2016). "Kerry Washington Learned Her Dance Moves from a Legend". ELLE.
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  38. ^ Naoreen, Nuzhat (April 4, 2013). "'Scandal'-ous Fashion Secrets!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  39. ^ "Kerry Washington Wants Olivia Pope to Redefine Power Dressing". November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  40. ^ "Kerry Washington, Kelly Rowland Land In PEOPLE 'Most Beautiful Woman' Issue". Huffingtonpost. April 24, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  41. ^ Sheeler, Jason (October 30, 2013). "Kerry Washington: The Gladiator". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
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  44. ^ Gettell, Oliver (August 30, 2016). "Kerry Washington developing female police drama at ABC". Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  45. ^ "Confirmation". Television Academy. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
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  47. ^ Lee, Ashley (March 9, 2017). "'Cars 3' Adds Kerry Washington, Nathan Fillion, Lea DeLaria". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  48. ^ Villarreal, Yvonne (March 9, 2018). "Kerry Washington takes the director's chair on 'Scandal'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
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  63. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (September 12, 2019). "Lionsgate Lands Kerry Washington-Sterling K. Brown Action Film 'Shadow Force'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
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  72. ^ We Love Kerry Washington Archived July 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Crave Online.
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  85. ^ Nemetz, Dave (November 5, 2019). "Live in Front of a Studio Audience to Return to ABC With Holiday Episodes of All in the Family and Good Times". TVLine.
  86. ^ Brantley, Ben (December 6, 2009). "In David Mamet's New Play, a Skirmish in Black and White". The New York Times.
  87. ^ Libbey, Peter (June 8, 2018). "Kerry Washington Is Going From the Beltway to Broadway". The New York Times.
  88. ^ "Kerry Washington on calling the shots". CBS News. October 7, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2018.

External links[edit]