Kerry Washington: 'Olivia Pope Had to Validate Her Blackness'

Kerry Washington: 'Olivia Pope Had to Validate Her Blackness'

The actress talks the controversial Scandal episode addressing the police killing of Black men.

Published March 9, 2015

As with every Thursday night, Twitter was abuzz with endless tweets during last week’s broadcast of ABC’s Scandal. The episode titled, "The Lawn Chair," struck a different chord with the show’s Gladiators. It dealt head on with the issue of police killing Black men and it put Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope smack dab in the middle of the controversy. The Emmy nominated actress says the episode’s importance was sensed from the moment the actors received their scripts. “We felt like our table read for that episode was very different,” Washington told panel moderator Jimmy Kimmel at Sunday night's Paleyfest LA 2015 in Hollywood, California. “The night the episode aired, Twitter was very different. And the cast and I agreed it felt like it was a reflection of what was happening. The responses felt very cathartic.”

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Washington also explained it was a bigger coming out party for her character Olivia Pope. Until that episode, show creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes has only subtly addressed racial issues. “It felt like a coming of age for Olivia. And I think it was really important moment for us on the show,” Washington continues. “There might have been moments where we didn’t address [race] specifically. But it did feel like we came to a moment where the writers felt comfortable fully embracing this part of Olivia’s identity. And I like that it was a journey for Olivia herself because she had to cross the picket line to validate her Blackness.”

Washington commended  Rhimes for taking a stand on the horrific current social issue through art and using a popular entertainment outlet — a nighttime drama series—  to teach audiences and spur an ongoing dialogue. “I was very moved that Shonda had a lot of feelings about what’s been going on. Her form of protest, her form of expression and way of contributing is her writing,” says Washington. “So to be able to tell this story it’s such an honor for us. In this coming of age, the overriding subject of the episode was so much more. It eclipsed any one person or their identity because it was about lives mattering regardless of who you are."

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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Written by Ronke Idowu Reeves

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