The Scandal superstar takes her power to a new level starring in and executive producing HBO’s Anita Hill film,Confirmation.
Kerry Washington wears a cotton sweatshirt from Shinola; diamond, onyx, and white gold earrings and an emerald, onyx, diamond, and white gold bracelet from Cartier; gold bracelets and a diamond and white gold bracelet from Van Cleef & Arpels; and her own ring. Styled by Samira Nasr.
For five seasons on Scandal, Kerry Washington has stockpiled TV megastardom. Now she’s using it to power her most political project to date, Confirmation, the HBO film she not only stars in—as Anita Hill—but also executive produced.
In 1991, Anita Hill, a 35-year-old law professor at the University of Oklahoma, appeared at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. At the time, Kerry Washington was just 14 years old. But like everyone else, Washington was transfixed by the two days that followed, in which Hill calmly recounted in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee the sexual harassment she claimed to have experienced while working for Thomas a decade prior at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the April issue of ELLE, Washington talks about everything from how she’s handling motherhood to why she feels it’s important to create work for herself instead of putting her artistic destiny in someone else’s hands to the reason Anita Hill’s story matters today.
Here, a peek at what she has to say.
Read the entire interview exclusively in the April issue, available digitally and on select newsstands on March 17, and on newsstands nationwide on March 22.
Embroidered-silk chiffon dress, Versace, price on request, at select Versace boutiques nationwide. Black jade, diamond, and white gold earring, De Grisogono, price on request. Gold cuff, Ippolita, price on request. Palladium-finish white gold and black jade bracelet, Verdura, price on request. Styled by Samira Nasr.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE EVENTS THAT INSPIRED ‘CONFIRMATION’
“This moment was so important because it created a language around women being able to protect themselves. The behavior that Anita Hill described was going on in a lot of offices throughout the country, and most people didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. But this created awareness around that and around the need for women’s voices to be heard in our public spaces, both testifying before Congress and sitting on the committee. It really was such a huge cultural shift.”
ON SPEAKING OUT ABOUT WHAT SHE BELIEVES IN WITHOUT COMPROMISING
“I’m a person who’s always been politically active and passionate about people’s rights. I marched against the  Republican Convention. And as my career has expanded, it’s been important for me to not stifle that voice. Because you want to be popular, you want people to hire you, and I have to make sure I don’t do it less because I’m an actor.”
ON HOW PLAYING OLIVIA POPE MADE HER FEEL LIKE SHE COULD HANDLE MOTHERHOOD
“Even though Olivia Pope has obviously made the decision that she is not a mom,” Washington says, in reference to the 2015 midseason finale, in which—spoiler—Pope gets an abortion, “playing her made me feel like I could be a mom. Because she knows there’s always another way—there’s always a way to fix it, there’s always a way to solve it, to win. And I feel like playing her made me feel like, All right, I can do it. I will figure out how to juggle it all.”
ON HER BOSS, FRIEND, AND MOM MENTOR SHONDA RHIMES
“She’s been such an amazing resource, as a mom, and as a working mom…I am on one show and I have one kid, and she has three shows and three kids.” Right now, she says, departing from her no-family-talk rule, her husband is at home listening to the audio version of Rhimes’s book, the first-person self-help journey Year of Yes. “We bought it for a bunch of people for Christmas because I feel like it’s a little bit of required reading.”
Wool sweater, Altuzarra, $795, collection at net-a-porter.com. Vintage Levi’s cotton jeans, from Collection, $135. Gold, diamond, blue topaz, garnet, and onyx earrings, Marina B, price on request. Gold bracelets, all, Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co., $2,800–$3,500 each. Violet sapphire and rose gold bracelet, Pomellato, price on request. Styled by Samira Nasr.