Kerry Washington may already be having the best year ever. She’s appearing in “A Thousand Words” with Eddie Murphy, and soon she joins the elite club of Black women who have lead a drama on network TV. The premiere of “Scandal,” which debuts in April, marks the second time this has happened since Diahann Carroll starred in “Julia.” Here, EBONY catches up with the actress to chat about her upcoming projects and the positive message she wants Black girls and America to take away from her work.
EBONY: Talk about what attracted you to “A Thousand Words.”
KW: The opportunity to work with Eddie Murphy was a big part of what attracted me to the film, and also the messages in it because it’s this really fun comedy—it’s funny but behind all of that is this idea that it’s important to say what you mean and mean what you say—the value and importance of communication. And I think one of the things that Eddie’s character learns is that it’s as important to listen, as it is to talk in communication. I think all of those things are great and they’re communicated so effortlessly as joy and fun in the film.
EBONY: It also must have been cool that Eddie Murphy was probably the childhood crush of everyone in your generation.
KW: (laughs) Totally! And also, I worked with all of these men who have been so inspired by him—people who he’s had such a tremendous impact on, like Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx and the Wayans brothers. I have loved working with all of those guys, so this was like going to the source, going to the teacher.
EBONY: How awkward was it that you had to seduce him in that crazy outfit?
KW: Those scenes are always awkward anyway, but we just laughed non-stop because it was such a ridiculous scene and what I’m wearing is ridiculous. But he takes comedy very seriously and it was great to collaborate with him. The last thing I wanted was people to see this movie and think that was a sexy scene because it’s not. It’s this ridiculous scene with these two people who aren’t able to communicate and so we worked on that.
EBONY: If you had to convince someone to see this movie in three quick cool points what would you say
KW:I would say it’s a great fun comedy and Eddie Murphy will crack you up, Ruby Dee is adorable and you’ll walk away feeling great about the message.
EBONY: Speaking of sending a message, starring in “Scandal” is a big deal for you because you’re one of the few Black women to do it.
KW: Diahann Carroll did it with “Julia” and it has happened on cable with Jada Pinkett-Smith and also on HBO with the detective show with Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose but it’s the first time since Diahann Carroll since a network has done this, and it’s really exciting. I love Shonda Rhimes. I wasn’t really looking to do a one-hour network drama but I read her script and just fell in love with the character, and with the world of the show, and with the concept of the show, and it’s been a joy to work for two Black women. Two of the executive producers on the show are Black women. Shonda Rhimes and Judy Smith—who the show is inspired by her work—and just to go to work every day and work for such smart, accomplished, generous and fabulous Black women has been a real treat.
EBONY: You guys are part of this crop of Black women in Hollywood who are making a huge statement of self-love and inspiration to little brown girls everywhere. And I’m saying this on the heels of Viola Davis walking the Oscars red carpet in her natural hair.
KW: She’s so gorgeous. It’s a really exciting time. I want Americans to understand that when you go to support a film like “A Thousand Words” you’re voting at the box office. You’re saying to Hollywood, “We want to see great feel good comedies with Black families,” and you vote with your remote control. When you tune in to “Scandal,” you’re creating success that has a ripple affect because if “Scandal” does well, all Black actresses will have more opportunities, better opportunities, that’s how it works. When something works they continue to do that something. I pray for the success of “Scandal” because I want to see more women of color on network television in leading roles.
EBONY: Can you speak about your work in “Django Unchained?
KW: I’m not at liberty to talk too much about it but we’re shooting now.
EBONY: What’s your dream role to play?
KW: It’s really funny because my whole career people have asked me that and I’ve never really had an answer that felt authentic and true to my heart, but for the first time in my career—and I’m not kidding, it actually almost brought tears to my eyes when I caught myself saying it at a Q and A, but my dream role would be a second season of “Scandal” because it’s the most fulfilling role I have had artistically in my career.
EBONY: Is there anything else you want to add about "A Thousand Words?"
KW: It’s really fun and I think it’s a great film. So often, we know that men and women communicate differently but the film is really a great way to talk about communication, so I think it’s a great date movie because men love the film and think it’s really funny and they get the character being a career driven modern man, and women really love the relationship aspect as well. It’s a great date night film because you can really talk about what communication means to you.