Kerry Washington On "Late In Life" Fashion (And Real-Life White House Gig)

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What a year for Kerry Washington! In 2012 she appeared in the Oscar-winning Django Unchained and snagged the lead role in ABC’s hit series, Scandal like it ain't no thang. Oh, and then there's that ELLE cover — which surprised absolutely no one who's been following her career (and red carpet style) these last few years.

She plays a politico on TV, but don’t let that fool you. It's a role that extends into her real life, too, considering she holds an honorary post on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. But she took a break from the hard-hitting political thriller for her new movie, Peeples, in which Washington gets a chance to test her comedic chops and work alongside the legendary Diahann Carroll.

You costar with Diahann Carroll in Peeples, how amazing was that?
"Diahann and I, we would have some lunches and there would be no boys at the table. And all the girls in the cast would sit around with her and she would talk about men and clothes and buying property and agents and all of it. And we would all be waiting with baited breath for her next piece of wisdom."

Can you talk about that scene where you dress up and flirt with Craig Robinson?
"It was funny, it was hilarious! The girls, we were all in the hair and makeup trailer having a good time, trying to come up with this look with the pigtails and the knee socks, and we wouldn’t let him see it. We wanted to surprise him on the day of. So, it was fun."

Why was this the right movie to do on the heels of the success of Scandal?
"Scandal did not exist for me when we were shooting this movie. We shot this movie before we even shot the pilot for Scandal, before I knew that a script for Scandal existed. What was great was that in the journey of Scandal, I have had Diahann as a resource to lean on and to communicate with throughout the process — because this movie gave me a real relationship with her."

You said about Scandal that you wouldn’t do the show had the President been black.
"I’ve been misquoted and I think the quote has been misinterpreted a lot. What I said was that I probably would not have done the show if the President had been written as black, and not because I think that it would have been bad to have a black president do the things that he’s doing — I think the show would have been great no matter what color the character was. But for me, personally, because I work in the administration, I would not have wanted to give an idea that what I was doing on the show was mirroring my actual work in the White House and for the White House."

The show is a hit, and you’re really the first African American woman to lead a hit show since Diahann Carroll in the sixties. Are you surprised at all by the success?
"I’m always surprised anything is a hit. You never know whether or not something is going to resonate. You know, Shonda would kill me if I told you where it was going, but it gets crazier. The last four episodes of the season are pretty intense and fantastic! The one thing I will say is the season finale was so shocking for me that I almost couldn’t get it out of my mouth at the table read."

Who are you wearing today? And who are some of your favorite designers?
"Tamara, Monique Lhuillier, the necklace is Lamont, and a Movado watch. I don’t know who these shoes are, Louis Vuitton maybe? Diahann is one of my style heroes, she-roes, for sure. She is so elegant and always has been. As for designers, I don’t have one particular design house that I’m committed to or loyal to. I think because I came to this later in life, I really came to fashion through my career. I wasn’t one of these girls in high school that thought about it at all. I went to an all-girls school where you wear your pajamas during finals week. But because I came to it later in life, I really see the art in it. For me, if I go to a Marc Jacobs show, that’s like going to the biennial at the Whitney or going to a new exhibit at LACMA. So I see the art of it and I enjoy it in that way."