Kerry Washington’s mom wanted her to go to law school, didn’t want a ‘starving artist child’

Riding high on her Emmy nominations for American Son and Little Fires Everywhere, Kerry Washington is on fire, no pun intended. Kerry continues to expand her belief that“art is activism” and is taking on her first documentary film, The Fight, about the lawyers who started the ACLU.

Kerry would never have been an actress if she would have followed her mother’s plan. This makes her first documentary project somewhat ironic. Kerry spoke to People magazine about her new project, its connection to her acting roots and how her mother, a university professor, tried to persuade her to become a lawyer.

On the plans her mom had for her life
“She really, really wanted me to go to law school,” Washington tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, opening up about life, parenting and her powerful new documentary The Fight.

“Oh my God, it’s what she begged me to do. She used to say to me, ‘Closing arguments are just like monologues’,” recalls the star. “She was terrified to have a starving artist of a child.”

On art and activism
“I started my life as a social justice activist,” says Washington. “I was 12 or 13, doing HIV/AIDS education and advocacy work in New York through an arts and education theater company. For my whole life, art and social change have been impossible to separate.”

On the connection between her mom’s plan for her and her new project The Fight
“One of the lawyers in the film, Dale [Ho], and I were actually in acting class together 20 years ago,” she explains. “It was right before he went to law school. He made the choices that would have made my mother proud, and I did the other stuff.”

[From People]

I am glad that Kerry followed her passion because I can’t imagine someone else playing Olivia Pope or Chenille. However, I think she would have been just as formidable as Olivia in the courtroom. I’m really looking forward to watching The Fight when it airs. I think it’s incredible that one of the founding attorneys of the ACLU, Dale Ho, was also in her acting classes twenty years ago! This proves to me that there’s not much separation between art and activism. I hope Kerry continues to grow as a director and that her future projects continue to rattle the status quo. In the meantime, I’ll just be inspired by Olivia Pope and go make myself a bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine.

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10 Responses to “Kerry Washington’s mom wanted her to go to law school, didn’t want a ‘starving artist child’”

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  1. TQ says:

    Kerry Washington is fierce! Love her acting and activism. But note the ACLU was started in the 1920s, and Kerry’s project is about recent cases. Dale Ho is a friend of friends and is my age, so makes sense Kerry went to acting school with him. Here’s the CNN review of The Fight, which I can’t wait to see!

  2. Flamingo says:

    It’s crazy how much influence family can have on your career path. Good for Kerry for following her own path, but it’s not always a bad thing.
    Just a little sweet little aside about how much influence family has in your formative years. My grandparents were very working class poor. My grandfather was a factory worker with an 8th grade education. When he thought of smart, successful people, he thought of the attorneys that he watched on TV. His world was pretty small and to him, the attorneys on TV with their nice suits and cars were doing something right. He pushed getting an education on his four daughters, he was obsessed with them going to college. (All ended up with at least one graduate degree.) When he had two bright, little granddaughters, he decided that we were going to be attorneys. When we spent time at his house, he’d have us watch old reruns of Matlock and Perry Mason. I can remember as a seven year old, him introducing me as his granddaughter and announcing that I was going to be an attorney. The idea got stuck in my head and it never left.
    He passed away when I was in undergrad and my cousin was in law school, but I remember my last time seeing him how proud he was to tell the nurses in the hospital that the family was going to have two attorneys and how much that meant to him.

    • Lisa says:

      That brought tears to my eyes.

    • Sarah says:

      This is beautiful, thank you for sharing! My grandfather was a chemist and really wanted more scientists in the family, his kids did other things and then I (eldest grandchild) got a bachelor of science degree (psychology) and he was thrilled. Even more so when I then did a masters and started a career in my field. I don’t think he influenced my choice of subject but I definitely inherited his scientific mind and way of looking at the world.

  3. El says:

    I find Kerry very beautiful, but in that old photo with her Mom, she’s just stunning. A little more baby fat around the face?

  4. nicegirl says:

    Mine wanted same. Oh well

  5. BnLurkN4eva says:

    I adore KW and will watch her in anything.

  6. lucy2 says:

    I really like Kerry. She’s very smart and focused, and always a gives a good interview. Plus I really admire how private she has kept her family life.
    I didn’t realize she was a double nominee! That’s awesome.

  7. detritus says:

    Love her and always have felt she’s underrated. Like Thandie Newton she has been acting excellently for decades, and has amazing range

  8. Léna says:

    I just can’t stand her acting , but I love the person