(Photo courtesy of Dream Works)
Born in the Bronx on January 31, 1977, Kerry Washington attended the Spence School and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University. After making an impressive film debut in “Our Song” in 2000, she went on to win the NAACP Image Award just five years later for playing Ray Charles’ wife, Della, opposite Jamie Foxx in “Ray.”
She will again be paired with Jamie as his spouse in “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s revenge flick about slavery in the antebellum South.
Over the course of her rise in Hollywood, Washington has proved to be a versatile thespian by virtue of an impressive list of credits that includes memorable performances in “Mother and Child,” “Night Catches Us,” “For Colored Girls,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Dead Girl” and “Lakeview Terrace.”
She has also co-starred in “Fantastic Four” and its sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Miracle at St. Anna,” “I Think I Love My Wife,” “Little Man,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “She Hate Me,” “Against the Ropes,” “The Human Stain” and “Save the Last Dance.”
On the small screen, Washington is set to play the lead role of Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” a dramatic TV-series premiering on ABC in April.
What interested you in ‘A Thousand Words?’
I really liked the message of the film, as well as the opportunity to work with Eddie Murphy.
What was it like working with Eddie?
It was great! It was particularly fun for me because I had worked with so many people who looked up to Eddie who had been inspired to go into the business by him, from Chris Rock to Jamie Foxx to the Wayans Brothers. So, it was like finally going to the source.
Did you ever have trouble keeping a straight face on the set?
Yeah, he’s very funny. But he’s also incredibly focused, and takes comedy very seriously, if that makes any sense. [Chuckles]
Of course it does. What message do you think people will take away from the movie?
It’s kind of about valuing your words, understanding that what you say has consequences, and that you can’t just B.S. your way through life.
If you could go back in time and give yourself at 18 a piece of advice, what would that be?
Relax and enjoy the ride. It gets easier.
What is your favorite charity?
Well, I’m on the board of V-Day, which is a global movement to end violence against women. I’m very passionate about that. We have a new campaign called One Billion Rising.
How can our stars and idols avoid the pressure that celebrity brings in order to prevent the kind of tragedy we all witnessed recently when we mourned the passing of Whitney Houston?
I’m reluctant to comment about preventing that specifically, since we don’t yet know all the details, and because I didn’t know Whitney well enough. So, I can’t say how we can avoid repeating that particular tragedy. But I will say that, for me, it is important to have friends and family around that I love and trust and who love and trust me. And having a great therapist also helps.
What is the next challenge you’re taking on in life and as an artist?
Well, right now, I’m shooting a feature with Quentin Tarantino, which is very challenging.
Do you have an interest in playing any heroic ancestors, such as Harriet Tubman?
I do, eventually, although I haven’t settled on any specific people yet. There are so many untold stories when it comes to great women of color. Harriet Tubman’s definitely a “shero,” for sure. And I just heard that Regina King is doing Shirley Chisholm.
What would be your dream role?
Right now my dream role would be to have another season on ‘Scandal,’ which will be debuting on ABC on April 5th, because that has just been a tremendously fulfilling experience, artistically, which I’d love to be able to continue. It’s been phenomenal to work with the quality of writers I’ve been exposed to on that project.
Some are wondering whether you would consider organizing a legends luncheon, like Oprah did, so elders can share their life lessons with aspiring young sisters?
I’m not sure that organizing such a function is my role in the community right now, but I’m always happy to participate when somebody else can. [Chuckles]
If others weren’t already doing it, I might feel the need to fill the void. But, today, for example, I’ll be attending Essence Magazine’s fantastic Women in Hollywood event. I look forward to that every year.
And Alfre Woodard hosts a big dinner every year during awards season. So, there are already a number of gatherings centered around women of color who are doing inspiring work.
What excites you?
Sunshine, swimming and home-cooked meals.
How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
I think my first big heartbreak made me more compassionate about other people’s heartaches. It enabled me to feel more for others when they are in moments of pain.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
I really don’t know whether there is only one, actually. There are many different types of success, so, I don’t think the formula can be reduced to just one key quality.
When do you feel the most content?
When I’m taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What motivates you?
Wanting to be of service. Not wanting to waste this life that I’ve been blessed to have.
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Winner of the 2005 NAACP Image Award as the “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” for “Ray,” Kerry Washington is a versatile, talented and fearless actress who has built an impressive list of credits over the course of her relatively brief career. She has also garnered critical acclaim for recent roles in “Mother and Child,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Dead Girl” and “Lakeview Terrace.” More »
Born Eric Marlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on Dec. 13, 1967, Jamie Foxx was raised by his grandparents from the age of 7 months, following the failure of his parents' marriage. He sang in the church choir as a child, and quarterbacked his high school's football team, before going on to major in classical music and composition at United States International University. More »