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Kerry Marisa Washington was born on January 31, 1977 in The Bronx, New York. She is a two-time Golden Globe and three-time Emmy Award-nominated actress, known for her TV role as Olivia Pope on the ABC series Scandal.
She attended The Spence School in Manhattan, graduating in 1994, and George Washington University in Washington D.C., graduating with a double major in anthropology and sociology in 1998. In her younger years, she was a member of the TADA! Youth Theater and studied acting at the Michael Howard Studios in NYC. She made her screen debut in 1994, playing the role of Heather in Magical Make-Over for ABC, which she followed up with an appearance for PBS in Standard Deviants in 1996. From then on, she regularly appeared on the silver screen, most notably as Lanisha Brown in Our Song (2000), as Chenille in Save the Last Dance (2001), as Della Bea Robinson in Ray (2004), as Jasmine in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), as Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), as Kay Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006), as Rosetta in The Dead Girl (2006), as Lucy in Mother and Child (2009), and as Patricia Wilson in Night Catches Us (2010). She also landed successful TV roles, including 100 Centre Street (2001) and the role of Chelina Hall in ABC's Boston Legal (2005-6).
Washington's career reached a peak in April 2012 when she landed the role of crisis manager Olivia Pope on the hit ABC series Scandal — a role she would continue to play through April 2018, appearing in a total of 124 episodes and receiving her first Emmy Award nomination in 2013. In 2014, she received a Golden Globe nomination along with a second Emmy Award nomination. Since Scandal, she has also starred as Broomhilda von Shaft in Quentin Tarrantino's Django Unchained (2012), earned a second Golden Globe nomination and third Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Anita Hill in the HBO movie Confirmation (2016), voiced the role of Natalie Certain in Disney-Pixar's Cars 3 (2017), and played Mrs. Greene in the film adaptation of the musical The Prom (2020). In 2018, she reprised her role of Olivia Pope on ABC's How to Get Away with Murder.
Washington made her Broadway debut playing the role of Susan in David Mamet's Race at the Barrymore Theatre from November 17, 2009 through June 13, 2010. She returned to Broadway to take on the role of Kendra Ellis-Connor in the Broadway premiere of American Son, directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon, at the Booth Theatre from October 6, 2018 through January 27, 2019. She reprised the role in the 2019 film adaptation of the play.