Spoiler alert: Scandal is full of dramatic plot twists that no one—not even Kerry Washington—sees coming. From Olivia Pope’s harrowing kidnapping to her shocking abortion, Washington finds out about her character's latest storylines at the same time as the rest of the cast. “I had no idea that the abortion scene was coming until I turned the page at the table read and read it out loud with everybody else,” she says in the April 4 issue of Adweek. “There are occasional moments when [Shonda Rhimes will] give me a hint about something that’s coming, but it’s very, very rare.”
Washington, and the rest of the cast, puts the utmost trust in their producer. “We are where we are because of her decision-making,” she tells the magazine.
Co-star Tony Goldwyn shares a similar sentiment: When asked about the future of the show, Goldwyn says that he knows better than to ask Rhimes her plans. “I’m assuming at the end of next season, my presidency will be finished,” he tells Adweek. "So what happens to Scandal once there’s a new president? Either that’s the end or Shonda has something in mind that may or may not include me—a whole new direction."
At first glance it may seem as though "Shonda knows best" is the unofficial motto of the cast and Washington is just along for the ride. But the actress loves to take the reins: She helped establish the basis of Scandal's large live social media experience and, in other areas of her career, she produced and starred in Confirmation, an Anita Hill biopic (which hits HBO April 16) and made brand partnerships go beyond simply being a model. For example, when Washington first became involved with Neutrogena in 2013 (she's currently a creative consultant and brand ambassador), the company didn’t sell cosmetics that matched her skin tone, she says. But the company moved to "elevate their beauty profile and really lean into their makeup line, relaunch, and expand it" along with her.
“When I joined the company, I think the darkest foundation shade was tan, and it was not a match for me [laughs],” Washington says. “I don't want to work places where I don't get to have a voice, and this felt like a place where I actually could have a really important voice. It's been so unbelievably rewarding for me to be literally in the labs and testing products for years.”
She may uninformed about Olivia Pope’s future, but when it comes to her own, Washington calls the shots.