Before Kerry Washington landed her role as the girl-boss gladiator Olivia Pope, she says she struggled to find acting jobs that were a good fit for her. As she told Aziz Ansari in Variety Studio: Actors on Actors, she landed some parts that would have required her to portray a stereotype instead of allowing her to interpret the roles in her own way.
“Before Scandal, I was actually cast in two other pilots,” Washington said, according to UsWeekly. “Both went to series, but I was fired and recast. For both, it was because they wanted me to sound more ‘girlfriend,’ more like ‘hood,’ more ‘urban.'”
Ansari’s series Master of None includes an episode on auditions in which actors are asked to speak in an exaggerated accent or fall into roles based on racial stereotypes. He told Washington: “A lot of other minority actors have told me, ‘Oh, this so rings a bell’ when you go into an audition room and you see a bunch of people that look like you and you just start feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m not here [for me], I’m here because I fit what looks like the person they want in here.”
Ansari’s solution has been to create roles that are truer to his own experience, where the characters are more dimensional. “You can’t wait for anyone to open doors for you,” he said in the Variety Studios conversation. “You have to create your own doors.”
Washington said she now has the space to create her own roles. “I definitely feel like I’m at that point where it’s nice to not have to sit at home and wait to be invited to the party, but to be creating work for yourself,” Washington told Ansari.
Read more at UsWeekly.