The daughter of a real estate broker and an education professor, actress Kerry Washington was born in New York City on January 31, 1977, and grew up in the South Bronx. She started out with ballet lessons as a young child, but her first career ambition involved a certain large mammal. “I wanted to work with Shamu at Sea World,” Washington told Giant. “I thought that was the best job in the world, to care for and feed dancing whales.”
Washington attended the Spence School in Manhattan, a prestigious private school. In addition to appearing in school productions, she was a member of a theater group that tackled social issues. Washington soon won a theater scholarship to George Washington University, where she earned a degree in performance studies.
While she made her film debut in Our Song in 2000, Washington had one of her first career breakthroughs the following year. She won over audiences with her role in Save the Last Dance (2001), starring Julia Stiles. Soon after the release of this popular teen drama, Washington moved on to comedy. She appeared in the humorous action film Bad Company (2004), starring Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins.
Washington’s career really took flight in 2004; she took on several major movie roles that year, including Della Rae Robinson, the wife of blind singer and musician Ray Charles, in the biopic Ray. Washington received strong reviews for her performance, and her co-star, Jamie Foxx, won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charles. That same year, she starred opposite Anthony Mackie in Spike Lee’s dramatic comedy She Hate Me.
The versatile actress tried her hand at the comic book action genre with 2005’s Fantastic Four, starring Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis. The following year, Washington once again showed off her skills as a dramatic actress in The Last King of Scotland. She won raves for her nuanced turn as the wife of Ugandan dictator Idi Aminâ€”played by Forrest Whitakerâ€”in the film. Around this time, Washington also had a recurring role on the hit television series Boston Legal.
In 2007, Washington reteamed with Chris Rock for I Think I Love My Wife. She played a vixen who gets involved with a married man (Rock) in the film. The part gave Washington the opportunity to branch out from the many devoted wife roles she had tackled in the past. She went on to explore interracial relationships with Lakeview Terrace (2008), in which she plays an African-American woman married to a white man (Patrick Wilson). The couple is harassed by an African-American cop (Samuel L. Jackson) in this thriller.
With For Colored Girls (2010), Washington worked with an impressive ensemble of actresses, including Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson and Thandie Newton. The film, directed and written by Tyler Perry, was an adaptation of a play by Ntozake Shange. In 2012, Washington moved to the small screen to star on the dramatic political series Scandal. She plays a “fixer,” a person who cleans up scandals and other messes for her clients, on the show.
That same year, Washington reunited with Ray co-star Jamie Foxx for Quentin Tarantino’s western Django Unchained (2012). She plays Broomhilda von Shaft, a slave married to Foxx’s character, Django. In the film, the pair are separated, and Django teams up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to find her.
Washington is active in many social and political causes. She is a member of the Creative Coalition and sits on the board of V-Day, an organization that works to end violence against women. Washington is also a strong supporter of President Barack Obama and has campaigned on his behalf.
In June 2013, Washington married pro football player Nnamdi Asomugha. The couple had been dating for about a year before tying the knot. She had previously been engaged to actor David Moscow.
|2000||Our Song||Lanisha Brown|
|2001||Save the Last Dance||Chenille|
|2002||Take the A Train||Keisha||Short film|
|2003||The United States of Leland||Ayesha|
|2003||The Human Stain||Ellie|
|2004||Against the Ropes||Renee|
|2004||She Hate Me||Fatima Goodrich|
|2004||Ray||Della Bea Robinson|
|2005||Mr. & Mrs. Smith||Jasmine|
|2005||Fantastic Four||Alicia Masters|
|2006||The Last King of Scotland||Kay Amin|
|2006||The Dead Girl||Rosetta|
|2007||I Think I Love My Wife||Nikki Tru|
|2007||Put It in a Book||Sheila||Short film|
|2007||30,000 Leagues Under the Sea||Medical Officer Marissa Brau|
|2007||Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer||Alicia Masters|
|2008||Woman in Burka||Kerry||Short film|
|2008||Miracle at St. Anna||Zana Wilder|
|2008||Lakeview Terrace||Lisa Mattson|
|2009||Life Is Hot in Cracktown||Marybeth|
|2009||Mother and Child||Lucy|
|2010||Night Catches Us||Patricia Wilson|
|2010||For Colored Girls||Kelly / Blue|
|2011||The Details||Rebecca Mazzoni|
|2012||A Thousand Words||Caroline McCall|
|2012||Django Unchained||Broomhilda von Schaft|
|1994||ABC Afterschool Special||Heather||Episode: “Magical Make-Over”|
|1996||Standard Deviants||Kerry||TV series|
|2001||NYPD Blue||Maya Young||Episode: “Franco, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn”|
|2001||Deadline||Tina Johnson||Episode: “The Undesirables”|
|2001||Law & Order||Allie Lawrence||Episode: “3 Dawg Night”|
|2001||100 Centre Street||5 episodes|
|2002||The Guardian||Drea Westbrook||Episode: “The Next Life”|
|2004||Wonderfalls||Mahandra McGinty||Episode: “Unaired Pilot”|
|2004||Strip Search||TV film|
|2005â€“2006||Boston Legal||Chelina Hall||5 episodes|
|2008||Psych||Mira Gaffney||Episode: “There’s Something About Mira”|
|2010||Black Panther||Princess Shuri / Baker Woman (voice)||TV miniseries|
|2012â€“present||Scandal||Olivia Pope||Lead role|
|2013||Jimmy Kimmel Live||Nerdy Girl||Episode: “After The Oscars”|
|2013||Saturday Night Live||Herself (host)||Episode: “Kerry Washington/Eminem“|
|2013||Project Runway (Season 12)||Herself||Guest judge on Season Finale|
Awards and nominations