What Kerry Washington Bought As Her First Big Hollywood Purchase

Actor Kerry Washington is widely known for her role as Olivia Pope in the Shonda Rhimes show "Scandal." This opportunity made her the first Black woman since the 1970s to be in a leading role on a US network drama. She's also known for her roles in the films "The Last King of Scotland," "Django Unchained," and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," among other movie and television appearances. 

Washington started acting when she was a teenager. She eventually graduated and attended George Washington University. In school, she studied sociology and anthropology but ended up pursuing acting full-time after graduation. Her mother, who was concerned about her daughter's financial stability in the field, wasn't thrilled about her decision. "My mother's nightmare was for me to be a starving actress," Washington revealed to The Guardian. "She felt, life is hard enough for you as a woman, as a person of color; why would you take on this additional struggle?" This didn't stop Washington from pursuing the field and eventually securing big Hollywood paychecks. She was in disbelief after receiving her first one and ended up making a very practical purchase.

A burgeoning career

Kerry Washington landed her first professional role in a commercial in 1994. She then appeared on an episode of "ABC Afterschool Special" two years later followed by a part in the film "Our Song," and then "Save the Last Dance," where she received a per diem — her first big check. "'Save the Last Dance' was my second movie, and we had a per diem. I couldn't believe somebody was handing me cash and I literally used to hide it under my mattress for the whole movie," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I put myself on a tight budget of what I could spend. And at the end of it, I used all the cash from the three months and bought my first laptop."

The checks kept coming in as Washington landed more and more roles both in film and TV. This gave Washington a greater platform, one which she intentionally used to highlight women, specifically Black women like herself. She tries to break stereotypes by portraying her characters with complexity and dimension. 

From acting to politics

The truth about Kerry Washington is that she's very selective in the roles she takes on. She considers the lasting implications of the role and takes into account the messaging and story that the proposed character showcases. She looks for roles that uplift and give nuance to women and Black people in general. "I'd rather work another shift at the restaurant than do a movie that is going to be bad for women or Black people," Washington explained to Marie Claire.

The actor's commitment to her craft is just as strong as her commitment to politics. She helped campaign for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and worked with Movement Voter Fun to create the Vision Into Power Cohort, which uplifts grassroots organizations with the vision of equitable democracy in mind. "I don't talk about politics because I'm an actor, I talk about politics because I'm an American," she said on an episode of "The View." "I live here. And I care about the things that happen here," she continued. "So I never want to give up my right to be politically engaged because that's what a democracy is, is when we engage."