‘Scandal’s’ Olivia Pope is no role model, Kerry Washington says (but OK to dress like her)

Actresses Viola Davis, left, and Kerry Washington talk about Shonda Rhimes' "How to Get Away With Murder" and "Scandal" on Tuesday during the 2015 Summer TCA Tour.

Actresses Viola Davis, left, and Kerry Washington talk about Shonda Rhimes’ “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Scandal” on Tuesday during the 2015 Summer TCA Tour.

(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Olivia Pope may wear a white hat (while walking in the sun), but she’s no role model.

“Scandal” star Kerry Washington put her alter ego on blast on Tuesday at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills, noting that she always thought it was “misguided” when she hears that the Washington, D.C., fixer is considered a role model.

“I’ve always thought it was really misguided when women tell me that Olivia is their role model,” the actress said. “Because she’s having an affair with a married man who is president of the United States. And a murderer. And they stole an election together. Well, she stole it for him.”


The character, who is based on real-life crisis manager Judy Smith, notched Washington an Emmy nomination a few years ago, and the show helped open the door for more dramas anchored by racially diverse female leads. Viola Davis’ wig removal in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and the death of Derek Shepherd in “Grey’s Anatomy” rocked TGIT viewers last season, and it’s moments like those that show the humanity and complexities of each series, Washington said.

She didn’t completely degrade the gladiator, though, offering up several qualities that are “very admirable.”

“She’s an entrepeneur, she’s very smart, she has an amazing closet, and those are all things that I think are worthy of admiration. But she is nobody’s role model.”

Washington praised executive producer Shonda Rhimes and the Shondaland team for creating people who are complex and can’t be classified as either all good or all bad. (See: Meredith Grey, Annalise Keating, etc.)

“One of the things that Shonda does, and [‘How to Get Away With Murder’ creator] Pete [Nowalk] does, is that all of these characters are complicated characters,” she continued. “There are no good guys and bad guys in Shondaland. You have three-dimensional, messy human beings.”

The “Django Unchained” Oscar nominee also shared a story of a fan who was devastated by the revelation that Olivia helped steal the election for her lover, Fitz -- one of the character’s first deeply dark moments in the series and “the first time that Olivia became a bad guy on the show.” (Aside from the whole affair dilemma.)


“She said to me in a letter that she was grateful because it forced her in her therapy sessions to talk about making room for people in her life to be complicated ... allowing for their own imperfections and humanity.

Washington said that’s what’s so powerful about the work that Rhimes and her crews do.

“That’s why you gasp when somebody takes a wig off; that’s why you are shocked at the end of a pilot when you realize that this powerful woman is weak in the face of the president of the United States; that’s why you gasp when McDreamy dies in a car accident, because nothing is perfect in Shondaland. People are real.”

TGIT: saving one life at a time.

Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.