As one of Hollywood’s most prolific actresses and an Obama Administration appointee, Kerry Washington finds time to work for change

Kam Williams | 11/30/2010, 8:49 a.m.

As one of Hollywood’s most prolific actresses and an Obama Administration appointee, Kerry Washington finds time to work for change

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.”

Washington made her feature film debut in “Our Song” in 2000, and has since co-starred in “Fantastic Four” and its sequel “Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “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.”

For her role in “Save the Last Dance,” Washington received received a Teen Choice Award for Best Breakout Performance.

She will soon be seen opposite Eddie Murphy in “A Thousand Words” and then in “We the Peeples,” an ensemble comedy featuring Craig Robinson, David Alan Grier, Tyler James Williams and S. Epatha Merkerson. She now has two films in theaters, “For Colored Girls” and “Night Catches Us.”

Washington is an active board director for The Creative Coalition, a group dedicated to raising awareness of First Amendment Rights and to supporting the arts in education. She’s also a member of the V-Counsel, a group of advisors to V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls (www.vday.org).

As for endorsement deals, Kerry is a spokesperson for both L’Oreal Paris and Movado. In this interview, Washington talks about everything from films to family to President Barack Obama.

I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I think we should get right to their many questions. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What attracted you to the role of Kelly in “For Colored Girls?”

I really just wanted to be a part of the production. I had heard a rumor that Tyler [Perry] was directing it, so I approached him at one of these industry parties, and said, ‘If it’s true, I want in, because it’s such an important piece of literature.’ ”

This play was written some time ago.  Do you think it is still relevant to today’s black woman?

I do. I do. I think the play is still relevant to all human beings, not just black women.

What is it about Tyler Perry that enabled him to assemble such an accomplished cast?

He’s a very inspiring person, when you look at the empire that he has created and built on his own. He wasn’t born into it.

With a text this powerful, what was the self-discovery factor like? Were there any dormant traits that unexpectedly came to the surface?

It was really fun for me to do this because I was coming off doing the David Mamet play “Race,” on Broadway. And that character was so forceful and angry and smart and sharp and verbally articulate. Kelly is almost the opposite. She’s very vulnerable and soft in a good way. Her role is to be a witness of these women and their journeys. It was a wonderful challenge for me as an actor to have to immediately exhibit the opposite qualities of those that I had been cultivating for almost a year.