February 5th, 2013
05:11 PM ET
Over the past year, Kerry Washington took on the challenge of portraying two characters from vastly different time periods.
There's the powerful, if personally misguided, Washington, D.C., "fixer" Olivia Pope on ABC's "Scandal," and the slave Broomhilda in the Oscar-nominated "Django Unchained."
The sizable task at hand wasn't lost on 36-year-old Washington, who told Ebony magazine in its March issue that she's "grateful ... these two women on opposite ends of history, on opposite ends of their experience, both strong women but in such different ways, can exist at the same time."
Portraying Pope, who carries a central storyline of having an affair with the president on the soapy drama, isn't about seeking perfection.
“One of the things that challenges me most and that I love most about playing her is how flawed she is,” Washington said. “In her professional life, she is so powerful and is this self-made woman. She is the answer to Broomhilda’s prayers."
In a way, Pope's messy private life is something of an answer to Washington's, too. "I love that I get to embody all of that complexity because I also think it takes a certain level of progress for us to have a Black woman that powerful be an emotional mess on television," she said. "She's the post-[Clair] Huxtable."
Yet before she signed on to the Shonda Rhimes-created drama, Washington told Ebony she thought carefully about how her character's behavior would be received, particularly considering that she has been a vocal and visible supporter of the Obama administration.
“I was a little concerned because [the character has] a scandalous relationship with the [occupant of the] White House,” the actress said. “I thought, ‘If the president on the show is Black, I will not do the show.’ Because to me, it was too important a moment. I didn’t want to do anything that compromised my relationship with the [president] or that made it seem like I had an insider view on the Obama presidency. I thought that would be so disrespectful and so against all the work that I had done."
Look for Ebony's March issue in select locations starting today.
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