Kerry Washinton is most recognized for her role as crisis management expert Olivia Pope in the television series Scandal. What did she do before she was famous?
Kerry Washington was interested in acting from a young age. She started acting as an adolescent and acting became her job when she was a young adult. Before becoming a full-time actress, and later producer, Washington attended college and school and lived an ordinary life.
Stick around to find out more about the life and career of Kerry Washington.
Before she was Famous
Kerry Washington was born in The Bronx, New York City, on January 31, 1977. Her mother is a professor and educational consultant, and her father is a real estate broker.
Kerry was interested in acting from a young age, performing with TADA! Youth Theater as a teen. When she was 13, she watched Nelson Mandela speak at Yankee Stadium shortly after his release from prison.
She graduated from George Washington University, in 1998 with a double major in anthropology and sociology. She also attended the acting studio Michael Howard Studios in New York City.
Interestingly, she learned to dance from Jennifer Lopez. She talked about her dance education from JLo on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:
“I’ve been taking dance for a long time, since I was a little girl. […I] had an awesome substitute teacher named Jennifer, who would sometimes step in and teach. [..] So, yes, I learned to dance from JLo!”
Kerry Washington with her parents, who didn’t always approve of her acting career:
Screen Debut and Critical Praise
Kerry Washington made her screen debut in the 1994 ABC Afterschool Special Magical Make-Over. She had several other minor roles on television, as well as in films such as Our Song (2000). Save the Last Dance (2001) Bad Company (2002), and The Human Stain (2003).
Kerry played the female lead in the 2004 film She Hate Me, although the film received poor reviews. She then had roles in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Little Man (2006), I Think I Love My Wife (2007), among others.
Kerry Washington played the significant role of Broomhilda Von Shaft in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, in 2012. She received widespread critical acclaim for her role.
From 2012 to 2018, Kerry starred in the ABC series Scandal, as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager for high-profile figures, including the President of the United States. Pope also had an on-off affair with the fictional President.
The series, along with Washington’s performance, earned critical acclaim. In 2013, Kerry was given the award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the 44th NAACP Image Awards. She was also given the NAACP President’s Award.
Also in 2013, she was deemed “Favorite actress” of the year at TV Guide‘s Magazine Fan Favorite Awards, as well as “TV Star of the Year” by the magazine’s editors.
In 2013, Kerry hosted Saturday Night Live and performed impersonations of Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. The tongue-in-cheek skit satirized criticism of the show on the scarcity of black female cast members.
Watch the hilarious (albeit tragically satirical) snippet:
In 2019, the actress turned director for an episode of Showtime’s SMILF. She then portrayed Helen Willis on Live in Front of a Studio Audience for a recreation of The Jeffersons. She reprised this role in the Netflix film adaption of American Son, for which she was also the executive producer.
She was the executive producer for The Fight in 2020, a documentary about legal battles of the American Civil Liberties Union during Trump’s presidency.
Also in 2020, she was an executive producer for Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere, while also starring alongside Reese Witherspoon.