Kerry Washington: 7 Cool Facts About The Scandal Star You Might Not Know

Kerry Washington on Scandal

On Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, she makes sure that problems from within the seedy underbelly of the political landscape never reach the public. Yet, there is not much one would call “scandalous” about the life of Kerry Washington, who received two Golden Globe nominations and two Emmy nominations for playing Olivia Pope on the hit ABC drama.

The 43-year-old Bronx native, most recently seen in Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere, has an eclectic filmography in film and TV, including a supporting role in Save the Last Dance and providing the voice of Shuri in the 2010 animated miniseries Black Panther. Kerry Washington is also known for playing Jamie Foxx’s on-screen wife twice (and counting), first in the 2004 music biopic Ray and second in Quentin Tarantino’s pre-Civil War era revenge epic Django Unchained eight years later.

This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the actress’ fascinating life behind the scenes. The following are seven more facts about Kerry Washington that might not sound like cause for a scandal, but are of equal amusement, nonetheless.

Kerry Washington in Our Song

Kerry Washington Majored In Anthropology Instead Of Acting

After making her screen acting debut as a cheerleader named Heather in a 1994 ABC after school special, Kerry Washington did not immediately continue to pursue acting projects. In fact, instead of studying the art at George Washington University, she majored in anthropology and sociology, in hopes of earning a degree that would allow a greater variety of career options. This did not necessarily mean that she was ruling out the possibility of acting professionally, however, as she explained to the magazine Backstage, she felt that studying a social science could "help [her] understand [her] role as an artist in embodying people."

Kerry Washington in Save the Last Dance

Low Earnings From Save The Last Dance Forced Kerry Washington To Return To Substitute Teaching

That liberal arts degree helped Kerry Washington earn gigs as a substitute teacher, which proved to be an effective fall back even after landing a role in a film as big as Save the Last Dance. The 2001 romantic dance flick, in which she played Julia Stiles' friend and Sean Patrick Thomas' sister Chenille, did not pay her very well, so she returned to subbing for New York elementary schools, where she happened to encounter her fan club. As the actress shared on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, high school students were cutting class to see "'Chenille' teach French."

Jennifer Lopez as a Fly Girl in In Living Color

Kerry Washington Was Taught To Dance In High School By Jennifer Lopez

Kerry Washington's moves in Save the Last Dance were not just an act, as she had began to take lessons in the art as a child. By the time she was in high school, as she recalled on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she had a "very inspiring teacher name Larry Maldonado" at her local Boys & Girls Club with a frequent substitute instructor named "Jennifer," who eventually left the Bronx for Los Angeles "to be on In Living Color," a hit sketch comedy series from the 1990s. Then, with a smirk, Washington confirmed that it was multi-talented performer Jennifer Lopez whom she, at times, would learn lessons in dancing from.

Stacey Dash in Clueless

Kerry Washington Auditioned To Play Dionne In Clueless

Before playing fierce rivals on Little Fires Everywhere, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon could have been one of the most iconic duos of the '90s. While promoting Hulu miniseries based on Celeste Ng's bestselling novel, which they also produced, in a video for BuzzFeed, Witherspoon recalls auditioning to play Cher Horowitz in Clueless, to which a surprised Washington says, "I did, too," referring to the role of the main protagonist's best pal, Dionne. Of course, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash would win both roles in the 1995 high school movie classic, but Witherspoon and Washington agree that a new reimagining with them would have potential.

Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington in Django

Christoph Waltz Pushed For Kerry Washington To Sing In German For Django Unchained

To play Broomhilda von Shaft, the enslaved wife of the title character in Django Unchained, Kerry Washington had to learn German for the first time, and cites her co-star Christoph Waltz as a great on-set tutor. In fact, it was the Austrian-born two-time Academy Award-winner who suggested the idea of including a 19th-Century German lullaby Washington would sing as a linguistics exercise in the film, which she revealed in an interview with Collider. Seeing it as a perfect alternative to Quentin Tarantino's original intention for the character to whistle (which the actress cannot do), Washington's recording of the song became part of the finished product.

Kerry Washinton and Scott Foley on Scandal

Kerry Washington Is A Cousin Of Colin Powell

Covering up damaging secrets from within the White House as Olivia Pope on seven seasons of Scandal is not the full extent of Kerry Washington's experience in the world of politics. I am not just talking about her efforts as an activist, because, as she would mention during a commencement address to the 2013 class of her alma mater, George Washington University, Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is her cousin. The relatives were spotted together at the 42nd Annual NAACP Awards ceremony in 2011.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal

Kerry Washington Made Her Directorial Debut With An Episode of Scandal

The Shonda Rhimes creation that made Kerry Washington a household name in the acting world would also become the starting point of her career behind the camera. "The People v. Olivia Pope," the tenth episode from the seventh and final season of Scandal, was directed by Washington, aired in 2018, and would lead to more directorial efforts from the actress, such as one Season 2 episode of Frankie Shaw's Showtime dramedy SMILF in 2019 and, most recently, an episode from the current fourth season of Insecure, an Emmy-nominated HBO comedy created by its star, The Lovebirds actress Issa Rae.

Be sure to check back for additional information and updates on Scandal star Kerry Washington, as well as even more in-depth looks at the lives of your favorite celebrities, here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.