It’s always a pleasure talking to the animated and affable Kerry Washington and this time was no different. She strolled into the middle school cafeteria in Walnut with her parents at a rather late hour in the evening still full of energy and more than happy to talk to us about her new thriller, Lakeview Terrace. As she sat down to talk to ComingSoon.net, her sassiness, which is always appreciated, kicked into high gear.
Q: Do you find yourself acting a bit differently when your parents are watching? Kerry Washington: No. Much to their dismay, no. Does anybody have any curiosity to where I get my performativity from? This is for the film. This is not because my parents beat me. I have an accident towards the end of the film so this is all fake bruisery.
Q: An accident that Sam Jackson’s character caused? Washington: Maybe. I can’t tell you. It’s a thriller.
Q: How long did it take for them to do that? Washington: I work with an amazing makeup artist. Her name’s Sarah Vaughn. What I love about her is that she does all the kind of red carpet glamour stuff. She was just in US Weekly for some makeup she did on me a couple weeks ago but she also has a lot of experience in this prosthetic kind of stuff so she’s fantastic. It took maybe like 15, 20 extra minutes.
Q: Is Jackson’s character a little harder on you than he is on the character of your husband? Washington: Harder on me than he is on my husband? No, he kind of gives it to us equally. I mean, I think that the two of them interface earlier than Sam and I interface but I think just because it’s sort of a man to man, they kind of get to know each other as neighbors before I get to know Sam’s character so they’re acquainted with each other more in the beginning and then I slowly kind of get to Sam’s character after that.
Q: What was it like working with Sam? Washington: I’m still working with him so the jury’s out. He’s awesome. It’s kind of amazing at this point in my career to work with people who I’ve always wanted to work with. I’ve worked with his wife before but I’ve never worked with him. I’ve seen him through the years and he’s always been incredibly supportive. Like my first year at Cannes with L’Oreal, he was actually a juror that year and I remember he ran out on the steps of the Palais to welcome me and was like I’m so happy you’re here and I’m so excited for you with this L’Oreal campaign. He’s just always been super supportive so it’s really fun. It’s not only being able to work with him but it’s like a lot of our interaction in the film, I really have to be able to hold my ground with him. I really have to be able to look him in the eye and say some scary stuff. It’s so fun to kind of be a peer on some levels and yet at other times feel like I’m in a master class. It’s really fun.
Q: What was the big draw for you on doing this film? Washington: The flies in the lunchroom. I thought that would be really sexy. I read this script a long time ago actually and I’ve been tracking it. I’ve been tracking it as it’s passed hands from different directors, different producers so I’ve liked this project for a really long time. I like it for a lot of reasons. I feel like I’ve never seen a character like this on the big screen. I’d never seen a black woman who is in a healthy loving relationship with a person of another ethnicity who is strong and smart. One of the things I love about the character of Lisa is that she does not fit into any of the kind of stereotypical frameworks of how we identify black women on screen. She’s really this kind of modern woman. This modern kind of progressive, intellectual, hippie, Berkeley chick dating a white guy. And I feel like she’s somebody who I know in my life. Like I have lots of friends like her but I’ve never seen anybody like her on screen. She’s the kind of person who, if she was an actress, I feel like studios would say we don’t really know what to do with you. You can’t really play ghetto-you know what I mean? To me the extremes have always been the urban, inner city ghetto chick or Whitley Gilbert. You know and she’s not either of those extremes. She’s really just kind of like somebody we all went to college with and I love that about her character. I come from a very diverse, multi-racial family and so I also like the idea of just having this kind of multi-racial family on screen and that’s not what the film is about. I feel like most of the films that have inter-racial couples up until now, that has been what the film is about. And I feel like for us as a couple, that’s not what this about. We’re in love and we’re healthy and we like our choice. It’s like we live next door to this crazy LAPD officer who doesn’t like us. No matter who you are, no matter who you’re married to, that’s going to be a problem. So I like that. It’s an issue but it’s not the issue completely. It’s complicated.
Q: You guys are dating or you’re married in the movie? Washington: We’re married.
Q: Has the script changed a lot since the first time you read it? Washington: It’s changed a lot. Yeah, it has evolved a lot. I like it more now than I ever have.
Q: What was the biggest difference from the first time you read it? Washington: It would be hard to tell you without ruining the ending. The biggest change was the reasons why Sam has issues with us as a couple. I can’t tell any more than that or I’d have to kill you. Wait, let me be really clear though. As some of you know, I’m a little bit of a workaholic, obsessive actor person so I follow a lot of projects just so you know. Like I find scripts that I like and I am the girl on like Studio Services going who’s authorized to that book now? So just so you know, when I find something I like, it’s mine. Until somebody else tells me otherwise, it’s mine.
Q: Well I was going to ask since you have followed it for so long, when you finally get to play it, does it still feel fresh for you? Washington: Yeah I always joke around a lot about the movie Gods but I really do believe that there are no accidents in life. I find that whenever I am playing a character, it is exactly the right time in my life for me to be playing that character. Usually because there is something really important for me to either be processing or learning from that character or something important that I need to learn about myself through playing that character. I always find that. That things come along at exactly the right time. I don’t mean from like a career, strategic point of view. I mean like for me, personally, as an artist. The projects that I’ve been able to do, they’ve been these little gifts for me to grow. I’ve used this metaphor before but if you do-just stay with me on this-if you meditate there’s a lot of Buddhist literature and I’m not a Buddhist that says that meditation is about kind of sitting and witnessing your life and you learn from being the observer of your own life and of the world and I kind of feel like as actors we get the benefit of living a lot of lifetimes in one life. You know you usually play a character at a pivotal point so I get the benefit of reincarnation in this one lifetime because I’m constantly learning this woman’s biggest lesson, this woman’s biggest lesson, this woman’s biggest lesson and I get to take that into my own life.
Q: Why is right now perfect for you to play this? Washington: Because I’m ready to buy a house in Walnut and I needed to get in touch with that. Why was this the right time for this? Because I feel like I’m at a really interesting place as a woman in terms of standing up for myself and kind of being who I am in the world with no apologies and just not holding back from who I am at all and I think that’s very much who Lisa is. It’s complicated. There’s so many reasons. To be honest, even playing a role this significant in the film where there really isn’t any other woman in the film who is present in the film as much as I am. You know I do a lot of ensemble work so even that for me was an important new place to be; to have that level of responsibility on set. What else about her? I see Lisa as being kind of quirky and different and I think that’s it. Like I’m at a time in life where I’m learning to not want to be like everybody else. Like it’s really okay that I’m really different from other people and that’s not something I have to adjust which Lisa deals with a lot.
Q: Having come off of something big like “Fantastic Four” where it’s more about the spectacle than some of the nitty gritty of character relationships. Do you find that balance between doing a film like that and something like this that’s more character driven? Washington: I like to bounce around a lot. I don’t like to do the same thing twice. I like to constantly be doing something new but one of my favorite things about this film is that I love being an actor. I love the character work. I am constantly talking to people who are like I didn’t know you were the same girl in “Ray” and “Last King” and “I Think I Love My Wife” and to me although it drives my publicist crazy, to me that’s the ultimate compliment. So I love that character work but at the same time, I love stunt work. I mean when I was doing “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the guys would laugh hysterically because we would be with these big guns and on these cables flying across the sky and as soon as Doug would say cut I would be like [screams]. I was so happy you know? So for me this film is this really great combination where there’s action and there’s violence and it’s thrilling and it’s dangerous but it’s coming from this very real psychological, emotional place for these three people so I’m having so much fun because I feel like I’m getting to bring kind of all my different loves in film to the table.
Q: This movie is only shot in seven weeks. Does it feel emotionally draining? Washington: It is. I remember on the first day in my brain I was like this is a thriller even though I had done all the character work and it was the first day and there’s this scene where something really horrible happens between Sam and I and it makes me nauseous and I throw up and I remember saying to Neil so I’m not really going to play the emotion of it, I really just want to play the sick part of it and he was like no I think you’re really upset and I was like oh ok. And so it was day one, I’m balling at the kitchen sink, I’m crying and vomiting and I was like, it’s going to be seven weeks of that! You know because I had never really done this kind of film before. Even in Fan4, my character doesn’t really have anything at stake or even in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” like my character didn’t have the emotional stake so in my brain there’s always been this real compartmentalizing-of course I did my actor homework but it’s not like really digging emotionally but for this film I had to bring it all to the table which is just so fun.
Q: Would this be tougher than working on “Last King of Scotland” or would this be comparable? Washington: It’s more. It’s just more than “Last King of Scotland.”
Q: Like more emotional? Washington: No just more scenes so it’s more work. There’s no safaris in Walnut for my days off so that’s not as fun. I don’t know. They’re all different. It’s hard to say because now that I think about it even though there’s less screen time for “Last King,” I was a wreck the whole time I was there kind of. The days right around we were shooting the abortion day scenes where we’re in the car talking about it, I was in my kitchen in Uganda and I was toasting bread and my then fiancé, was in Uganda with me and I burnt the toast by accident and I started balling and he was like it’s just toast and I was like you don’t understand! Because I was already in like oh my God, I’m going to die because I’m pregnant with a child that’s not Idi Amin’s. It was so weird so sometimes I get caught in that. I mean not nearly in the way that Forest was so Uganda was exhausting. This set’s actually really fun because Sam is so funny. Sam is so funny and Patrick Wilson is hilarious actually like I had no idea. I was so excited when I found he was doing this movie because I think he’s a genius. I think he’s amazing so…
Q: Give us just the funniest, most random Sam Jackson moment. Washington: What’s the funniest random Sam Jackson moment? Well, you know what’s interesting about working with Sam is that he’s such a pro because he’s done like a hundred thousand movies right? In the last season! So everything is sort of like not a big deal all the time. So we’re doing this scene where I’m holding a knife up to him in a very threatening way and there’s some blood involved and I’m like all caught up in it and he’s like I don’t really think it’s worth having the bag with the blood, I kind of just feel like maybe we should just put some on the knife. Like he’s so technical. Like nothing’s a big deal ever even when you think it’s going to be like tough and hard and he’s like, “yea, right, great” but then you call action and it’s terrifying. He’s terrifying you know. I’m sorry. I know you want something funnier.
Washington: Mom did you have a question? Mom, ask me a question. You have to come up with something. I’m not leaving the table until you ask me a question. Kerry’s Mom: What is the scene that you most enjoyed doing? Washington: Oo that’s such a good question. Wow. Dad, they were much more impressed with her question. The scene so far that I have most enjoyed doing-oo it’s such a good question, there’s so many good ones. There’s an argument that Sam and I have in my backyard out by my pool and it was actually the first day that I worked with Sam. We had already been shooting for a few days but it was the first day that I actually got to work with him so my first day of working with him, I’m like up in his face telling him to get off my property and that was just a blast. I remember going to see “Jungle Fever” on the day it opened when I was in high school in New York City like with my girls. You know, taking the bus across town to go see “Jungle Fever” and being awed by his performance. It’s really neat when you have those moments. It’s like a double consciousness where you’re in it and you’re like get off my property and that is not OK! And then there’s another little part of your brain going “Oh my God, that’s Sam Jackson!” It’s very fun. My acting teacher would say that’s bad acting but whatever.