NEW YORK – When it comes to playing the girlfriend or wife in a Hollywood role, Kerry Washington has been there, done that.
Not that she’s complaining. She’s played the love interest of some noteworthy characters.
“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Washington said in a recent interview. “I’ve played the wife of some pretty incredible people. Two men who have Oscars.” (She was Forest Whitaker’s spouse in “The Last King of Scotland” and the wife of Jamie Foxx in “Ray,” the life of Ray Charles.)
Washington moves front and center as the star of the ABC series “Scandal.” Or, as Washington puts it: “not the love interest but has a love interest.”
She plays Olivia Pope, a professional “fixer” in Washington, D.C., who helps people in crisis.
Think the premise is contrived? The role is based on one of the show’s executive producers, Judy Smith, who is a professional problem solver.
“When some scandal unfolds, if I hear that it’s in another state or another country, I’m like, ‘Where are you, Judy? Are you in Italy?’ She’s like, ‘I cannot say.’ I’m like, ‘Come on! Are you in Texas?’ ‘I can’t tell you!’ So it’s fun to play ‘Where in the world is Judy Smith’ sometimes,” said Washington, with a laugh.
“Scandal,” which premieres its second season Thursday, debuted on ABC last April as a midseason show.
Washington, 35, spent the time between production on the show’s first and second seasons shooting the slavery movie “Django Unchained,” which opens Christmas Day. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, the film reunites Washington with her “Ray” co-star Foxx in the role of (you guessed it) his wife.
That irony isn’t lost on Washington.
“It’s been a really fascinating year because in the film I play a woman who according to our Constitution is described as only being three-fifths a human being and she’s property. She can’t own property because she is someone’s property. And on ‘Scandal,’ I play somebody who is arguably the most powerful woman in the country. ... It’s been pretty phenomenal to jump two centuries back and forth and play these two black women on complete opposite ends of the spectrum,” she said.
Turns out, Tarantino is a fan of Shonda Rhimes, an executive producer on “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.”
“He was like quoting season one of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to me on set one day,” Washington said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?’”