Kerry Marisa Washington was born January 31, 1977 and is an American actress, producer, and director.
Washington was born in The Bronx, New York City, the daughter of Valerie, a professor and educational consultant, and Earl Washington, a real estate broker. Her father’s family is of African American origin, having moved from South Carolina to Brooklyn. Her mother’s family is from Manhattan, and Washington has said that her mother is from a “mixed-race background and from Jamaica, so she is partly English and Scottish and Native American, but also descended from enslaved Africans in the Caribbean.” Through her mother, she is a cousin of former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Washington performed with the TADA! Youth Theater teen group and attended the Spence School in Manhattan from her pre-teen years until graduating from high school in 1994. At the age of 13, she was taken to watch Nelson Mandela speak at Yankee Stadium upon his release from prison. She attended George Washington University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1998 with a double major in anthropology and sociology. She also studied at Michael Howard Studios in New York City.
Washington got her Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card as a requirement for a commercial that she starred in. Washington made her screen debut in the ABC telefilm Magical Make-Over (1994). She was in the cast of the 1996 PBS sketch comedy-style educational series Standard Deviants, and she appeared in the short “3D” and the feature film Our Song in 2000. She went on to appear in several movies, including Save the Last Dance (2001) and The Human Stain (2003). In 2002 she played Chris Rock’s love interest in the spy thriller Bad Company, a film that represented a turning point for her, in that it was the first time in her career that she had made enough money annually to qualify for health insurance under SAG.
In film, Washington is known for her roles as Della Bea Robinson in Ray (2004), as Kay in The Last King of Scotland (2006), as Alicia Masters in the live-action Fantastic Four films of 2005 and 2007, and as Broomhilda von Shaft in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012). She has also starred in the independent films Our Song (2000), The Dead Girl (2006), Mother and Child (2009), Night Catches Us (2010), and American Son (2019).
From April 2012 to April 2018, Washington starred in the ABC drama series Scandal, created by Shonda Rhimes, as a crisis manager who runs her own crisis management firm, she also played the lead role in Confirmation, an HBO movie directed by Rick Famuyiwa about Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, which aired in 2016.
In 2019, Washington starred in Live in Front of a Studio Audience on ABC in a recreation of The Jeffersons, portraying the role of Helen Willis. In 2020, Washington served as an executive producer on The Fight, a documentary film revolving around legal battles lawyers for the ACLU face during the Trump administration. That same year, she served as an executive producer and starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, an adaptation of Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel of the same name. In December 2020, Washington starred in The Prom, directed by Ryan Murphy for Netflix.
As a sort of souvenir or memento, she usually tries to keep something from every character that she plays, such as an item of wardrobe or a piece of furniture from the house the character lived in.
On May 19, 2013, she was the commencement speaker for her alma mater, George Washington University. Before giving her commencement address she was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.
In 2007, Washington and other celebrities joined for the 2007 Lee National Denim Day, supporting the Women’s Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. In September 2012, Washington spoke at the Democratic National Convention in favor of re-electing Barack Obama, with her speech focusing on addressing voter apathy. Washington has also used her celebrity to support voter registration drives and recently encouraged her Twitter followers to make sure they have the appropriate ID needed to vote by contacting VoteRiders, a voter ID education organization.
Washington is also a supporter of LGBT rights. In August 2013, she was named an honorary chairperson of the GLSEN Respect Awards. In June 2016, the Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting; in the video, Washington and others told the stories of the people killed there.
She is a member of the Creative Coalition; which is a board of actors, writers, musicians, and producers that explore issues that are at the forefront of national discourse. She is also a member of V-Day, a global movement that brings awareness to violence against women and girls.