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One Important Lesson Cars 3 Taught Kerry Washington About Champions

Cars 3 Natalie Certain Kerry Washington

Numbers don't lie, they don't mislead, and they're rarely wrong about the simple things in life. That's why Cars 3 character, statistician Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), loves numbers so much. As it turns out, however, numbers often completely miss the point of what makes a true champion in the racing world. I recently sat down to talk to Ms. Washington about the core themes of the film, and she explained that real winners like Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) are all about inner strength that we cannot measure on a calculator. The actress elaborated:

One of the things that I love about Natalie is that she is such a know it all, bossy-pants statistician. I love that she's so smart. But I also love that she's humbled by the movie, because she's wrong. In the end, she's wrong. She thinks it's all about numbers and statistics. She's attracted by the shiny, new, next-gen racers. And the truth is that you can't measure courage and passion and love, and those are the things that make a winner. I don't mean to sound like a tie-dye hippie, but those are the things that make a champion, is somebody who's passionate and has experience and wisdom and commitment. So the stats matter, but sometimes there are things that can't be measured that are just as important.

Wise words from a wise woman, but that's also a perfect encapsulation of the core thematic ideas that drive (pun entirely intended) the story of Cars 3. The entire narrative feels built around the idea of tearing Lightning McQueen down to rebuild him from the ground up. Faced with a new generation of technically superior racers who rely exclusively on quantifiable data to make themselves better, McQueen finds himself forced to turn to the unquantifiable qualities within himself to become the racer that he once was. Think Rocky IV, but with cars.

If there is one character in Cars 3 who seems diametrically opposed to this idea, it's Armie Hammer's Jackson Storm. I recently chatted with the actor about how his incoming Cars champion differs from longtime Cars protagonist Lightning McQueen, and he explained that Storm doesn't learn from his mistakes, or develop the humility that Lightning eventually discovered while under the tutelage of Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) during the events of the original Cars film. Based on the definition laid out by Kerry Washington during our interview, it becomes fairly clear that Storm may never become a sincere champion -- even if the numbers are in his favor.

Don't just take my word for it. Check out a clip from my chat with Kerry Washington below to hear what she had to say about the nature of champions!

On that note, and with that valuable lesson about the inherent traits of graceful winners, make sure to catch Kerry Washington as Natalie Certain when Cars 3 opens in theaters this weekend on June 16.

Conner Schwerdtfeger
Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.