WASHINGTON WATCH: Kerry Washington Discusses ABC’s “Scandal” (VIDEO)

Roland Martin talks with Kerry Washington, star of ABC’s “Scandal.”

MR. MARTIN:   Welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

Now, anybody who follows me on Twitter knows I love my television shows.  I’m a huge fan of “Boss” on Starz, but also one show that I absolutely love that’s a political show – of course, historically, “The West Wing” – but my new one:  ABC television series “Scandal.”  And if you’re not watching it, you have no idea what you’re missing.

It is based on the real-life experiences of crisis manager Judy Smith.  We’ve had her here on the show.  It is a fast-moving show and has more drama than an episode of “Real Housewives.”  Check this out.


MS. KERRY WASHINGTON (AS OLIVIA POPE):  I don’t have cash on me.  I don’t carry debit cards.  If you’re hoping for a ransom, I don’t have many friends.  And if you’re planning on anything else,  you should know that there’re security cameras trained on every inch of this garage, and the police – who I’m dialing right now – will identify you within minutes.

MAN:  I – I’m sorry.  Okay.  I – I didn’t mean to follow you or freak you out.  It’s just they’re following me, and they’re freaking me out!  And I – and I didn’t know where else to go, and I – I know that you fix things, and you solve problems, and I got some problems, Miss Pope – some really, really big problems.

MS. WASHINGTON:  You need to get outta my car – now!

MAN:  Okay.  Sorry.  My bad.

They’ll – they’ll – they’ll kill me, Miss Pope.  You – you – you – lemme explain.  You have to!  They’re following you, too!  The government – the- — they know everything.  They know all about the late-night phone calls from the West Wing!


MR. MARTIN:  And joining me right now is the lead “gladiator” of the show, Olivia Pope – that’s the role she plays – Kerry Washington, the star of “Scandal.”

Homegirl, how ya doin’?

MS. WASHINGTON:  I’m great, Roland.  Thank you for having me on.

MR. MARTIN:  Not a problem.  You know I’m a huge supporter of you and of this show, and so – obviously, it is a political show.  You’re dealing with [crises] all around Washington, D.C., from the White House to the outhouse.  And so your thoughts on just this –

MS. WASHINGTON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — role and how unique it is.  [Chuckles.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  It’s r- — it’s really exciting for me.  I feel like – I – I, too, was a “West Wing” fan, and the show is from Shonda Rhimes, who created “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” – an incredibly successful, smart, prolific Black woman.  And so, to me, this show in a lot of ways is a combination of  “West Wing” and “Grey’s Anatomy” with a little bit of “Damages” thrown in.  So, it’s got a lot of politics, a lot of complicated personal relationships, a lot of power dynamics.  It’s a really exciting show to be a part of.

And we’re so grateful to our viewers, because we know that we wouldn’t have a second season if it wasn’t for people tuning in.  The – the numbers are so important; and, you know, for me to be the lead on – on a network show – that hasn’t happened in my lifetime, that a Black woman has been the number one on a network show on network television.  And the fact that we get to stick around for another season and that we’re having so much fun, we just – we’re s- — we feel so blessed and so grateful.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, of course, we had – last year, we had, of course, Judy Smith in studio.  We also had Columbus Short –


MR. MARTIN:  — on the show as well, and so we enjoyed that.  And, really, what is unique about this – and I’ve heard this from so many Black women – to see your character, a strong woman in control, authoritative and running the show.  That’s also important when you talk about imaging for African-American women, especially in the day when you have a Black first lady in the White House.

MS. WASHINGTON:  It’s true.  You know, I – I’m always careful, though, Roland ’cause – you know me.  I like to keep it real, and the reality is that what’s interesting to me about Olivia Pope is how truly human she is –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — because in her professional life, she is smart, sophisticated, in control, in power.  She – she’s got it all taken care of, and she’s fearless.  There’s nothing she can’t do in her professional life.

Her personal life, however –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  — is a complete mess.

MR. MARTIN:  Drama!

MS. WASHINGTON:  And – and for me –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  — yeah!  And I – you know, she has a very complicated relationship with the President of the United States, who is a married man.  And, to me, those dynamics are important because we – we don’t treat her like a super hero.  We treat her like a real, three-dimensional human being.  And as an actress, you know, as a woman who acts and as a woman of color who acts, so often in my work I have been someone else’s love interest.  And it’s really exciting to be on a show where I have a love interest.  I’m not somebody else’s love interest.  It speaks to our ability as a society to begin to open up about who are our stories about and do we have the courage to tell stories about people that don’t just look one way, but know that everybody deserves to have their stories told.

And Olivia’s not perfect.  You know, she’s very inspiring.  I do think it’s important to see a Black woman on television who is successful, who is articulate, who is in control; but I also – you know, when people kind of compare our show to reality shows, and they have all this judgment, I say, you know, “Well, you have a lot of judgment about those other women ’cause they’re sleeping with somebody else’s husband, and Olivia’s doing the same thing.”

So, I do like to keep it in perspective.  I think, you know, on our show, we don’t solve problems by smacking each other around.  And that’s part of what I – and that’s what I’m really proud of.  A- — and I’m also proud of how imperfect Olivia is, because we let her be human.  We let her be fully human.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, Judy Smith is a co-executive producer of the show, and so what has it meant for you to actually sit down and talk to a real-life person this character is somewhat based on?  Judy says that not all of the issues are exactly what she has worked with.

MS. WASHINGTON:  [Chuckles.]  Sorry[?].

MR. MARTIN:  But to deal with –

MS. WASHINGTON:  Well, I’m always –

MR. MARTIN:  — somebody who is –

MS. WASHINGTON:  — I’m always careful –

MR. MARTIN:  — who –

MS. WASHINGTON:  — to say that the –

MR. MARTIN:  — right?

MS. WASHINGTON:  — I’m always careful to say that the character is inspired by –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — Judy – not –

MR. MARTIN:  Right, right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — based on Judy, because the work life of the character –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  — is based on Judy’s work in crisis management, but Judy never had an affair with –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  — of course, George Bush when she worked in that White House.  Let’s put that on the record.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]  Right, right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, but – but – but, again, though, what’s interesting –


MR. MARTIN:  — is by – to – to be able to sit down with her and talk about really what she has had to do to bring that reality to a character, it really is giving people a peek, if you will, into what happens in the nation’s capital when stuff comes up and turns into a real-life crisis.

MS. WASHINGTON:  Yeah, it’s exciting, ’cause I think what – you know, we’re kind of over saturated with crisis.  Every time we turn on our television, somebody’s getting in trouble, whether it’s in entertainment, in sports, in politics.  And the show is about who is the person who’s managing that, the little peek behind the curtain to say, “Who’s the person that’s deciding what they wear to court?”  “What the press can print and what they can’t?”  You know, who’s the person leveraging all this information and – and making these deals and handling these situations?

So, I love that about our show, ’cause it’s like a behind-the-scenes look into scandal.

And it’s great to be able to sit down with Judy.  Poor Judy.  You know, she didn’t know that I’m a person – I’m an actor who really loves research.

MR. MARTIN:  Right?

MS. WASHINGTON:  The more information I have, the more it arms me to do my job.  You know, I – that I can call Judy and say, “What does it really feel like to be woken up at three in the morning and be told you have to go identify a dead body?  How does that affect you” –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — “physically?  Emotionally?  What does” – “How does that impact your life?”  And I can bring all of that reality to the character.  So, it’s an invaluable – she is an invaluable resource to me.

It’s funny, though, Roland, because I’ve played a lot of characters based on real people – whether it’s Mrs. Ray Charles, or –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — Kay Amin, Idi Amin’s wife, in “Ray” and “The Last King of Scotland.”  But I’ve never played a character based on someone real, who could ruin my life.  Like –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MS. WASHINGTON:  — Judy Smith – if I get this wrong, she could – [chuckles] – like, destroy my life.  You know?  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  So, y’all –

MS. WASHINGTON:  She could –

MR. MARTIN:  — y’all keep –

MS. WASHINGTON:  — tarnish my –

MR. MARTIN:  — it on good terms.

MS. WASHINGTON:  — reputation and – [chuckles] – I try to do this as well as possible.  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, the show, of course – again, I love it.  I love watching it.  We have so many people who also follow me on Twitter who also do the same.

It’s “Scandal” on ABC.  [It] airs Thursday nights at 10 Eastern.

You can also follow Kerry @kerrywashington on Twitter as well.

And so, Kerry, always a pleasure to have you, and [I] look forward to always chatting with you –

MS. WASHINGTON:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  — and seeing you.