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Kerry Washington On Channeling A Black Mom's Fear In 'American Son': "I Know Her And I've Been Her"

"I wanted to embody her [because] I hadn't seen her."

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I watched American Son tonight, and let's keep it 100. Kerry Washington be acting her ass off. Excuse my vernacular, but this hour and a half Broadway play-turned-Netflix film is sure to get you all the way in your feelings and recently, Kerry sat down with Variety to discuss exactly how she tapped into the character that had us crying like our son went missing, too. In her first on-screen project since Scandal, Kerry plays a concerned mother named Kendra who is desperate to learn the whereabouts of her 18-year-old son who never returned home after a night out with friends.

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As black women, we have every damned reason to be mad, especially in a police station full of people who don't seem to give a damn about black lives and Kerry explained that this cycle of misunderstanding is one that she knows well. She explained:

"I understood her so clearly. I've been that black woman who's having big feelings in an appropriate moment and being stereotyped to be something other. And I wanted to bring her to our canon. I wanted to embody her [because] — even though I know her and I've been her — I hadn't seen her."

According to Kerry, her passion for bringing the play to the streaming platform came out of both necessity and a sense of obligation. Anyone who's ever been on Broadway knows that tickets don't come cheap, and the 42-year-old actress says that American Son is a story that should be available to every country in the world.

"So I felt that responsibility — a helpless responsibility, because there was nothing I could do to make people turn on their televisions. I could make sure that we were doing the work and work that I was proud of, but the numbers of eyeballs that watched it, I didn't have any control over that."

Her latest role is only one of the many iconic characters that Kerry has portrayed on the big screen, and with great power comes great responsibility. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, in the interview, the mother-of-three said that during her time as Olivia Pope, that weight sometimes became too much to bear:

"There are various moments in my career and in my life where I've felt like 'the face of the race.' The whole beginning of Scandal, every headline was 'This hasn't happened in 40 years.' And so there was a deep understanding that if Scandal didn't work, it might be another 40 years before we had a [network drama] with a black woman as the lead."

While her legendary track record has proven to be a burden at times, it has also been a well-deserved blessing for Black women in the film industry.

"But in the success of 'Scandal,' you then have Viola [Davis] and you have Taraji [P. Henson]. And now we have an understanding that one person cannot hold the responsibility of being 'the face of the race' because we are not a monolith. We are diverse and inclusive within our own. And so you have less pressure on each of us to be the face of anything, because together we are beginning to reflect and be the embodiment of the multitudes of beauty that black womanhood is."

To read the full interview, click here!

Featured image by Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

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