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Kerry Washington Says She Wouldn’t Have Starred In ‘Scandal’ If The President Was Black

Kerry Washington Says She Wouldn't Have Starred In 'Scandal' If The President Was Black

“I was a little concerned because [the character has] a scandalous relationship with the [occupant of the] White House,” the actress says of her role, which is based on a real-life Beltway insider. “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.” 

Words spoken by Kerry Washington, about her hit ABC Shondo Rhimes-created drama, Scandal. This was lifted from the latest issue of Ebony magazine (via News One). Kerry’s on the cover.

So, if I’m understanding her correctly, she wouldn’t have done the show if President Fitzgerald Grant was a brotha, because she felt that it might have implied (to audiences) that there were some similarities between the relationship Olivia Pope has with the fictional president, and her own real-life relationship with President Obama. She felt that audiences may have wondered if she had some insider POV of Obama’s White House.

Hmm… Ok. I’m trying to wrap my mind around that. I guess I can understand her concerns. BUT, from what we know of Kerry Washington, she doesn’t strike me as someone who would really gives a damn what audiences might infer from roles she takes, so her reasoning is a little surprising to me. 

Audiences took issue with the role she played in Django Unchained from the start, but that didn’t stop her from taking the role.

I wonder if she gave any thought to the *positive* influences that having a black president on the show could have meant; it seems as if the *negatives,* from her POV, outweighed the positives. 

But if he was a black president, having an affair, would black America have rejected that – a black president having an affair, on a hit TV show? 

I wonder if the people she was most concerned about (given her above quote) weren’t so much the audience that actually drives the show’s ratings (black women primarily), but were instead white Americans.

As an addendum to this, a few days ago, Star Jones took to Twitter and challenged Shonda Rhimes on the interracial love affair on the show.

The first tweet came from Star Jones:

??? for @shondaRhimes: Why does #OliviaPope reject fine azz Senate Maj Leader #EdisonDavis for married #POTUS w/ a pregnant wife? #Scandal

There wasn’t an immediate response, so she followed that up with:

I love #scandal. @kerrywashington is ridiculously good…but I’d love to see #OliviaPope reject the unethical & immoral for a good brother!

Some minutes later, Shonda Rhimes replied with:

OH! Just read the tweets. Here’s answer: Because this show is not a fairy tale & Olivia is not a role model.”

And Star Jones replied with:

Fair enough.

So… what do you guys say about all this? Much ado about nothing? Or is there something worth talking about here? Is she being genuine, or is she just trying to stir up conversation around her and the show? After all, publicity is publicity…

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This quote is old i read it earlier in the year so its a cut and paste job from ebony.

She's right though, yes blk america would be upset- especally black men that the president was an adulturer " oh why you gotta make the brotha a cheat?" they'd yell. Blk people want the potus to be seen as PERFECT with no flaws so of course they'd probably boycott the show imagine if the wife was WHITE ha! Boy that would set the cat amonght the pigeons for both bw and bm but for different reasons lol!


I agree with Kerry Washington. People would have inadvertently made parallels to Obama which would have been very awkward, given that Kerry campaigns a lot for Obama. To me, it's just too close to home, so I don't blame her. Django unchained was a little too far removed to worry about making parallels to real life! I think people have an annoying tendency to connect minorities with each other. Meaning that, when people see a black fictional president on TV, they immediately think of Obama, yet, somehow, the same doesn't happen with white fictional presidents, regardless of who is in office. So I'm glad that Shonda decided to distance her show as much as possible from the current president.

At the same time, I think we need to reach a point where people stop placing the the burden of representing black people on every successful black person. So while I'm glad that Shonda has drawn the line with the president I'm very happy that she doesn't let race concerns restrict how she portrays her black characters. She isn't afraid to portray them as flawed and complex individuals. I think that this (somewhat) colorblind approach is what makes her shows successful with such a diverse audience.

I was thinking of the Homeland parallel (I'm a big fan of that show!). A character like Carrie is far more screwed up than Olivia, but viewers have no problem rooting for her. No one is concerned with how she's portraying white women because people can easily separate her actions from those of other white women. I think it's harder for minority characters to gain acceptance and approval from viewers(even from their peers), but it's clear that Shonda decided that she wasn't going to give a crap about pleasing people and went ahead and created this charismatic female black character who is far from perfect. And that is why Scandal is so successful. Honestly, we shouldn't have to act like Claire Huxtable to be accepted!

And note to Star: Telling a black female who she should and should not date is just another way of trying to restrict her freedom to do whatever she wants. It's even more ridiculous when it happens in a show that is fictional. She should be ashamed. Personally, I'm not crazy about the Olivia Fitz relationship either. It's incredibly self-destructive and dysfunctional. But so are lots of relationships on TV. People need to stop looking at it in terms of race. I think it was wise (and practical) to avoid the possibility of people making parallels to someone in office, but I'm glad that the producers drew the line there


Much to do about very little. Come on now, be honest. If the president on the show was black you'd be complaining that the producers are sending the image that black men can't be faithful even in the highest office in the country. And the reason Olivia does not fall for the "nice" brother is because this is a drama (drama with comic over tones but a drama none the less) and "nice" does not make good drama. Drama is never about "nice." Nice is boring. The show is call SCANDAL, people. does that give you clue about the kind of choices the storylines will make?


I like what the producer of the show answered Star Jones who is very insignificant at this moment and time. I think that she only tweeted that comment to remind people of her existence since being kicked of the View and than Apprentice.
As for Kerry Washington, it's obvious that she is not giving the audience much credit. Plus the show would be less controversial if the president was black. But at the same time there would be complaints about the fact that a black president is being made into a cheater just because he is black. Please you can not win with everybody. So if the ratings are good, the network is happy and everyone is making money who cares if he is white, black or purple. Next!


Black Potus and white woman… Turns into the Cheerios Commercial controversy (go read some of the post from our fellow Americans. May 31,2013 Because a black woman being second string for a white man is historically acceptable, but a white woman being a black man's number 1 pisses off everyone! lol THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT THOUGH!


I don't really see how if the president was black on the show would have anyone questioning if she had any insights on the current presidency.


Sat in that jail, sat in that jail, sat in that jail! SMH! The character of Olivia Pope is based off a real live black person who served under a white potus. Now we all know that if Shonda had of made the potus black, President Obama would have been in the spot light more so than he is now! I can just see fox news and their regular suspects (you know, bill orielly, and that bag of wind called rush limbaugh et all) eating it up on a daily basis.

They would compare him and his administration to every single episode looking for anything that resemles their version of the truth, about how President Obama is mucking up our country, while the black side of him is having an affair with a white intern, and the white side is doing Kerry Washington!

Yall know it's true, the GOP has been trying to get this man out of office since day one, and the sad part is, they really think they can still do it, and one of them fools pretty much admitted to it yesterday! I won't even get started on the impact it would have on Michelle and the girls, although I have no doubt in my mind that MO can handle her own, the so called jounalist's of today ie: the national enquirer,, sarah i'm a pit bull palin, and so on, would have no mercy on what has been the BEST most charismatic, intelligent, I'ma really show yall how to run a country without bustin a sweat, and do it with swag POTUS we will probably ever see ( imho). Ok, time to stop, I do understand KW's decision, and with a wife like Michelle, I don't think this POTUS would stray from his queen, I'm just saying :)


I don't care who the president is. I just wish "Scandal" were a better show. Because these characters are absolutely cardboard, and they spend most of their time thwarting law enforcement in the name of "the good fight" and making it difficult for real officers of the court to do their jobs putting the bad guys away.

And not one of the characters is as smart as the show constantly tells you they are.

Couldn't care less about these people.


i think its funny how black men are always on tv lusting after white females or none black females and black women are suppose to just sit back and take. now theres a love interest between a black woman and none black man and its an issue. haha black women have been doing nothing but supporting and loving black men for YEARS and in stead of returning the support we get men who want to exercise their " variety". pssh it's about time us black women exercise our variety and show that we can be just as desirable as any other race of women.


It ain't about cutting a very good and very successful actress down. It's about — why can't a brother get some REAL, JUICY, GENUINE LOVE on TV.
I'm a brother who loves the writing, acting and directing in Scandal but I am disappointed that ALL of Olivia's loves and potential loves are white men.


Can we just be happy that Black Woman is the lead role on a TV show. Yes she is complicated, strong independent woman but ain't that most women. Instead of breaking down every little thing about this show. It is a drama. It is a fictional TV show. What we need to deal with reality TV which is real life.


Why criticize Kerry Washington so much. Scandal is a fictional Tv show. People can't just watch a TV show and be happy. Scandal gets so much criticism when there are other shows that have affairs on them. Those shows are very popular. I never hear any criticism of those shows.
What Kerry Washington said was exactly right!!!! A few People already insinuate that she is messing around with President Obama. Go look at the issue of National Enquirer magazine that has President Obama, Kerry Washington, and The First Lady on the cover. Then come back and comment. I think you would understand more were Kerry is coming from. Just think if the President was black on the show it would have been a serious mess.


IT JUST NEEDS TO STOP!! Let's enjoy good tv. Why do we cut each other down? Its always the ones that don't have that find fault.


Here's where Shonda Rhimes is wrong: Scandal IS a fairy tale. Replete with political figures (yes you, Olivia and Justice Verna…and you too, Fitz) who claim to give a single damn about the American people and our fantasies about democracy. They fixed shit, cleared their consciences, and lived happily ever after. As if…


Well given that he killed someone, I agree with Kerry. boy that would have been a can of worms if he was black


SIMON SAYS, jump through the hoop and yell "KERRY'S RIGHT! On command with Helen Reddy's song I AM WOMAN playing in the background, Meka, JMac, Fartchecker, Edwina, Mandy and LadyJ leaped through the burning ring of fire. When they hit the ground, smoke streaming from their backsides, they jumped up and screamed "KERRY'S RIGHT!".

But there was one lone person still standing at the starting line. Simon addressed him. "CareyCarey, I am sorry but you're out of the game because you didn't jump on my command"

CareyCarey: " I may look like a Big Mouth Bass, but I know when someone is blowing smoke up my ass. So I didn't jump, there is no doubt, so fk it, kick me out.

Seriously y'all, I can't buy this big bag of bullshit. But lets see how this works.

Everybody in the WHOLE damn world knows full well that Scandal is a prime-time soap opera, right? So, suspending belief is what we do. I mean, Kerry asked us to do that when she was screwing Idi Amin's personal physician in Last King Of Scottland, right? And certainly nobody accused her of being a prostitute or a slave for playing the part of Broomhilda in Django, right? But now, for reasons that elude me, she concerned that some folks would draw a connection between her and the current POTUS, if the president of this fictitious, make-believe show was a black man.

Kick me in my ass and call me Toby… GET THE-bleeeeeeeeep-OUT OF HERE! Listen, I would rather she just tell the truth. You know, since it's no secret that she only dates white guys (in real life) I wish she would have said…. "I had a white husband in Lakeview Terrance and I slept with a white man in Last King of Scotland. So can't y'all see this is what I do… and I love it. And my guy said he better not ever see me kissing on one of those ni…… I mean, black guys. Play-Play or otherwise, he said I better not even think about it. So, 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 for me and my guy"

But nooooooo, Simon says…….


After years of reading nonsense such as "why couldn't they get a sista blah, blah, blah" as the love interest of a black actor during some relative rare moment in which TPTB cast a white woman as a lblack guy's ove interest (mostly TV I'll add), it was admittedly amusing for me to see the shoe on the other foot with a black woman this time demanding "racial solidarity" by way of questioning why the black female lead is paired with a white male. How interesting. Nonetheless how very silly as well. Star Jones was out of line IMO. If she likes the show why would the casting be a problem to her? If she doesn't like it she can always tun to another chanel. And by the way this same complaint/pleading from black folks gets tiring whenever it comes up. One can want more examples of sexy black romances or solid black relationships without freaking out too much at IR pairings. You know there can be both.

Rhimes' response was amusing and to the point. Brutally honest as well. Hopefully though now she understands how it feels for some celebrity to come out of nowhere and attack the casting choices of a show runner. After all Rhimes did that herself when she whined about Amy Sherman not casting any black girls for her latest TV series.

As for Kerry….please. I totally believe in her commitment to and support of Obama as President. And I'm sure there are audience members who would be stupid enough to think that what was happening on Scandal represented what was going on between Kerry and Obama, but that would be a small percentage of the population. To me the real reason why she wouldn't have done the show with a black president was because it simply wouldn't have piqued her interest to do so in the first place. Too boring for her perhaps. I'll leave it at that.

Miles Ellison

Why does anyone care what Star Jones has to say about anything? She still hasn't cleaned off all the burnt cork from her appearance on The Apprentice as Toupee Fiasco's Rock-'em Sock-em blackface muppet.


1. Dang, Shonda shut Star Jones down really, really quickly.
2. Kerry was on Katie Couric's talk show today, and Katie asked Kerry about rumors that she had flirted a little too much with President Obama when she was assigned to campaign for him. That is the crux of her statement above about disrespect. It's related to the real life rumors. Kerry understandably wants to make it clear that nothing funny was going on in real life. She wants to make sure that even the show does not imply anything. Tambay, I think you read more into this than it was. :)


WTF! Star Jones is an idiot. She can't even spell "ass" right. …And she's a media whore who needs to get a life.


"…. Olivia is not a role model" Unfortunately some (stupid) people think otherwise. Anyway, sounds like a legitimate concern but either situation would have been equally scandalous esp since – so far – Obama has no women in the background. You know they've checked, double-checked, and triple-checked that and still no evidence.


it does make perfect sense to be honest…


the president on this show is a pathetic human being. you don't want him in your camp, i certainly don't want him in mine


don't watch the show…have heard what it's about though

If you can present something in an attractive package, you can sell almost ANYTHING to people

in other words…..Black character engaging in an affair with a married man would generally be considered a "negative role" but write her as very powerful, well educated, and photogenic and it's a "hit show" .

I had to call out a few women that I know over this. Some of the same women who had ALL types of problems with IR relationship and erasing of Black women from Red Tails.


Well her statement makes a lot more sense when you consider the fact that she does a lot of work for Obama's campaign and stumps heavily for him. It's less about people's opinions of her and more about avoiding speculation about her relationship with the actual POTUS and any confusion about storylines the show may explore. People love to jump to conclusions.


This is going to bring all the Scandalistas out in full force LOL. The way I see it, she was screwed either way no matter which way the show went with the president's race. She just chose what in her mind was the lesser of 2 problems she would've faced.

Edwina Owens Elliott

If the POTUS on the show was black and having an affair, that would have been such an ugly "told ya so" kind of smear against our current administration. I don't watch the show but fully understand Kerry Washington's reasoning here.

Ian Evans

I Understand The Reasoning and Trust If Scarlett Johansson was Olivia Pope, Harry Lennix Was President Fitzgerald Grant and Regina King Was First Lady Mellie Grant We Would Probably Be Having a Entire Different Feel, Outlook and Ideal In Regards To SCANDAL….


Her reasoning makes perfect sense. People complained about the President being white, but if he were black, people would complain and say the show was making suggestions about the morality of Barack Obama. I don't get why this doesn't make sense to the author of this piece.

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