Kerry Washington, best known for her role in the uber-popular political thriller Scandal, once spoke up about gender bias, racism, and representation during The Women of Sundance Brunch in Park City. In her candid admission, the actress addressed the often-attached acclaim to her Shonda Rhimes-created ABC show. The Django Unchained star is grateful for the empowerment the TV series’ success brought her, but she also had some important insights to share.
When Scandal first aired, ABC was praised for having a Black woman play the main protagonist. In casting African-American female leads, studios began employing the rhetoric of risk-taking. While Washington welcomed the accolades and acclaim surrounding her program and was grateful for a company willing to portray stories from the ‘other’ perspective, she also believed that labeling such casting choices as ‘risky’ is a fallacy.
Let’s look at what the actress was trying to express through her statements.
Kerry Washington Believes Heroes Come In Various Shapes
For a long time (and sometimes even now), media conglomerates and studios had a conventional, Eurocentric notion of what constitutes a hero or a protagonist. In recent years, we have witnessed a shift in popular narrative that is prepared to cast hitherto unheard voices in Hollywood and elsewhere in leading roles. These characters are no longer forced to participate in one particular hero’s journey and instead become the heroes themselves. To Kerry Washington, looking for work that incorporates this theme is significant. That is why we’ve seen the actress in complex, nuanced roles.
Her statement at The Women of Sundance Brunch in Park City (via E! News) encapsulated the above sentiments:
“I look for work that makes us feel less alone, not by forcing us to be part of one kind of hero’s journey, but realizing that heroes come in many shapes and sizes and hues and genders and gender fluidities,”
The American Son alum demystified the concept of risk-taking when it concerns casting Black women in leading roles. Although she appreciated Scandal‘s leap in doing what many were not brave enough to do around that time, she also pointed out some interesting statistics regarding the female population and Black people’s content consumption. By doing so, she was able to illustrate her point effectively.
Kerry Washington On Studios Praising ABC For ‘Taking A Risk’
Scandal was renowned for numerous reasons, mainly for shattering barriers. When it premiered on ABC in 2012, Washington became the first Black woman to lead a network drama in almost 40 years. It sparked a global conversation, pushing the media to focus on more TV series that are not race-specific but include ethnically diverse cast members in a compelling tale. ABC had taken a significant stride. Other studios praised the network for taking a “risk” by featuring a female African-American main character.
Kerry Washington expressed gratitude for the show’s capacity to make her feel empowered and successful. She did, however, question why the concept of ‘risk-taking’ has continued to persist in the first place. Following was her statement:
“Black people consume content more than anybody else in this country, and women are 51 percent of the population, and so, why do we allow the myth of risk to exist? When [Scandal] first aired, you started to see other studios use the language of taking a ‘risk’ in casting African American leads.”
With so many women and Black people eager to consume content willing to represent them, featuring an African-American female protagonist in TV shows (or movies) should not be considered a risk. While it was a momentous step for ABC at that point, it should not be a persistent notion. There is an audience who is ever-present and ready for these stories.
Nevertheless, Washington also concluded by affirming her gratitude for the company that allowed for a narrative to be told from the ‘other’ perspective:
“Thankfully with the success of the show, I have been empowered financially, logistically, and professionally by a company that sees the value in storytelling by ‘other,’ and for that I am grateful.”
As a producer herself, Kerry Washington has created opportunities for the voices often left unheard. Her efforts have helped to ensure that diverse perspectives are included and valued in the entertainment industry. Fans of the actress couldn’t be prouder.
Scandal (2012-2018) is available for streaming on Hulu.
Source: E! News