KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Kerry Washington fans will get to see the Scandal star in a different light as sings and dances her way to Netflix in the upcoming LGBTQ musical The Prom.
The 43-year-old New Yorker plays an overbearing mum and parent-teacher association head in a film about two lesbian high school girls who are banned from going to prom.
And one of the girls just happens to be her character’s daughter.
While the part is a departure from the actress’s usual roles, fans will recognise bits of crisis management expert Olivia Pope in Mrs Greene.
“Somebody said to me, ‘Mrs Greene really likes to fix things’ and I said, ‘Oh there’s that Olivia Pope again’.
“I often play these characters who want to fix stuff,” she said.
But her character is thrown a curveball and has to face up to the fact that she has no control over her daughter’s sexual orientation.
“Inherently in motherhood, there exists vulnerability because when you have children you realise there are certain things in the world that you don’t get to fix because kids are who they are,” Washington said.
She explained Scandal’s Olivia Pope could never be a mother because there is powerlessness in motherhood which is why the character chose to go for an abortion in Season 5 when she fell pregnant.
The 43-year-old who has two children with husband Nnamdi Asomugha said while mothers have the responsibility to create boundaries and encourage their kids, they, however, don’t get to decide who children are.
“Children are who they are and as mothers we have to show up and help them be the best versions of themselves.
“So it’s fun in the post-Olivia Pope years to play lots of mothers and to experience and explore what it means to let go and the parts about mothering that are not about fixing but about nurturing,” Washington said.
The Ryan Murphy-directed adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name has some big musical numbers and bigger names that form the star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and James Corden.
Washington, who loves to sing and dance, welcomed the challenge with open arms.
“As an actor you get to learn to do new things and be forced outside of your comfort zone so it was really fun for me,” she said.
The actress couldn’t be more grateful for her on-screen daughter played by Broadway star Ariana DeBose.
“She has so much experience in this area and I got to be coached by a Broadway legend — I was the unsupportive mum and she was the very supportive co-star,” Washington said.
On working with Hollywood legend Meryl Streep
Washington described the three-time Academy Award winner as a beast and in the best way possible.
Recalling their first day on set, she said: “(Meryl’s) a beast, she’s the real deal.”
Streep was filming the scene where she sang It’s Not About Me and Washington was expecting a dance double to show up but Streep did her own singing and dancing.
“She was doing it perfectly, singing every note, belting out, kicks, the whole nines.
“I called my husband and told him I have new life goals, she’s just a tremendous person,” Washington said.
DeBose agreed, adding that everyone clapped for Streep after each take because the 71-year-old was just that spectacular.
“She did scare the living daylights out of me — she Miranda Priestly’d me,” DeBose said, referring to The Devil Wears Prada’s steely editor.
“I clapped every single time and the one time that I stopped prematurely to get something off my skirt, I guess she noticed and walked up to me and said, ‘You’re not clapping, was it not good?’ and I died on the inside and dropped to the floor and bowed, then we laughed about it.”
DeBose described Streep as a funny person who doesn’t take herself seriously but takes the work incredibly seriously.
“It’s such a pleasure so early in my career to be able to experience and witness her process — I will never forget it,” she said.
The Prom starts streaming on Netflix from December 11.