Kerry Washington has revealed the film that led her to turn down stereotypical roles in the future.
In her new memoir Thicker Than Water, the 46-year-old actor recalled playing receptionist Renee in the 2004 Meg Ryan-led sports drama, Against the Ropes.
“In it, I played [Ryan’s] coworker and confidante – this was becoming a new niche for me, the white girl’s best friend,” Washington writes (according to Entertainment Weekly).
The film is a fictionalised account of boxing manager Jackie Kallen, one of boxing’s first and most successful female managers.
“When Harry Met Sally is, to this day, one of my top three movies of all time, so once I’d played Meg Ryan’s best friend, playing the role against anyone else would have been a lateral move,” Washington explains, adding: “It’s not that I wanted to be the star of the film; I wanted my characters to be in a story of their own. I didn’t want to be an accessory to a white woman’s journey.”
Washington went on to play the female lead in Spike Lee’s 2004 comedy She Hate Me, also starring Anthony Mackie.
Years later she starred in Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 hit Django Unchained before leading Shonda Rhimes’s ABC drama series Scandal for six years between 2012 and 2018, earning two Emmy nominations along the way.
She also served as an executive producer and starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in the 2020 Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, earning a further two Emmy nominations.
Elsewhere in her memoir, Washington describes the moment she found out that her dad, Earl Washington, was not her biological father.
Washington was only told the truth after she’d mentioned to her parents that she planned to be a guest on Finding Your Roots, the PBS series hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr, in which Hollywood stars find out more about their ancestry.
Speaking to People, she admitted: “It really turned my world upside down.”
The truth was that her mother Valerie and Earl opted to use a sperm donor to conceive because they’d experienced a myriad of fertility issues.
Upon learning this, Washington was motivated to share her story in her own words. “This is really kind of me working to understand my life up until now, given this new information that I have that, in many ways, felt like sort of the missing puzzle piece,” she said.
Thicker Than Water is out now.
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