Interview: Kerry Washington

Interview: Kerry Washington

Published October 29, 2010

Coming up on the release of Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, sat down with Kerry Washington to discuss her role in the upcoming film, crazy Internet rumors, aid to women in need and possibly dressing up as Nicki Minaj for Halloween!

There was some talk about Tyler Perry taking on For Colored Girls.
Did you have any hesitations about joining the film?
No. To be honest with you, something that we’ve all talked about, all of the girls, is who else could have done it. He has built up all of this capital in the industry that he is one of the very few people who could get this project done. So I really more than anything felt grateful that he was interested in bringing this material to a larger audience.

Do you have any words to share with the naysayers?
No, I think people will see it. One of the things that is so special about Tyler is that he is fearless. He is very courageous and he does not let other people’s doubts get in the way of him taking risks and scaling new heights -- I think that’s huge. It is really important and I have enormous respect for his willingness to continue to expand his own repertoire.

What is your personal connection with your character Kelly?
I actually really did a lot of research. I spent time with a family member who works in child services.  I spent time with her and did a lot of research about both training to be a therapist or social worker and also about what it is like in the field.  When I first started the film I was on Broadway eight times a week playing this very intense, strong, fierce, aggressive and smart woman on stage. One of the things that attracted me to the role was that I felt like Kelly in For Colored Girls was almost the opposite. She is not in your face and aggressive. She is kind of a silent witness, just this walking emotional person. I feel as if she is there feeling for people. So I liked that she was kind of the opposite of what I had been doing on stage for six months.

Kelly desperately wanted to be a mother. Do you have babies on the brain?
No, not really. I mean, it is something that I think about, but I don’t identify with her real need with an urgency of it.

I call that the “Halle Berry Plan."
Oh, what does that mean?

That’s when you wait until you are about 40-something and find a “sweet, young thing” and have a pretty little baby!
Right! [Laughs]

As a self-proclaimed urban hip-hop child, if you could play any hip-hop artist who would that be?
Gosh, I’ve never really thought about that. What a great question! I don’t really know, maybe Spinderella, she is so cool. I don’t know how much drama there is in her life, but she was always so cool to me!

Girl, I thought you were going to say Nicki Minaj!
Nicki Minaj
is amazing! If I were going to get dressed up for Halloween this year, I would want to be Nicki Minaj!

Your Night Catches Us co-star Anthony Mackie had this to say about rappers-turned-actors: “I don’t go to the hospital and let the janitors perform surgery on me.” What is your take on that?
[Laughs] Oh, dear! [Pauses] I don’t like it when people put me in a box and limit my potential or decide what I am capable or not capable of.  So, I try not to do that to other people as well. To me, the main thing is if you are going to move into a new territory and do something -- you respect it. So I don’t have a problem with whatever people have done before they decided to be actors, as long as they come to the table ready to be committed to the craft and to learning and growing as an artist. I think what bothers a lot of people is the arrogance that people have that they think they can just show up and be actors, that there’s not a lot of work involved. As long as people are committed to the work, I don’t have a problem with it.

What is the craziest Internet rumor you’ve ever heard about yourself? Do you go to the blogs?
I don’t personally go to the blogs but every once in a while a girlfriend will tell me something hilarious that she’s read. But there is this crazy rumor, I think it might be on my IMDB or Wikipedia or something that I speak like seven languages and that is not true. [Laughs] It’s totally not true!

You’ve worked with Spike Lee, Robert Benton and Keenen Ivory Wayans. Seeing that you’ve worked with that very eclectic group, what makes Tyler different as a director?
Well one thing is the amount of power that he has cultivated in this business because it’s his studio. He owns the process in a different way, which is really wonderful because you know that his vision is going to be the final product. You don’t worry about another studio coming in and editing or paraphrasing his vision. Every director is completely different. I would also say that he is also very sensitive and intuitive, he really understands people.

You are doing remarkable work with the V-Counsel to end violence against women and girls. For Colored Girls helps brings this issue to the forefront. What is your advice to women and girls who are in violent relationships?
That is such a nightmare. [Pauses] There is help out there. There are resources for help. You can go online to  There is lots of information about what you can do to join in the efforts to end violence against women. I think you need to ask for help and to remember that even though you feel alone, that you are not alone.
What are your words of encouragement when you find yourself having one of those days, and the rainbow isn’t enuf?
I pray a lot, to be honest with you. I pray a lot! Often I will pray for the wisdom of what to say to myself. “Universe, God, Great Creator, give me the right language or the right feeling to feel toward myself.”

For Colored Girls is in theaters Friday, November 5th.

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 J’Nara Corbin is a New York City-based actress and model. She is starring in the film, Finding Me: Truth, which is in theaters later this year.  For more of her work, you can read her commentary on Princess and the Frog and Chris Rock’s Good Hair.


Written by J'Nara Corbin


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