LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES: Will Kerry Washington change the trend?

Kerry Washington is an actress, director, narrator, and the lead actress in the ABC drama Scandal —she happens to be of African-American heritage.

Lead Actress 1Image credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/emmys-diversity-kerry-washington_n_3947104.html

Kerry has had notably outstanding performances in roles such as Ray Charles's wife, Della Bea Robinson, in the film Ray (2004), as Idi Amin's wife Kay in The Last King of Scotland (2006),  and as Brünhilda von Schaft, Django's wife, in Quentin Tarantino's film Django Unchained (2012).

Washington also had leading roles critically acclaimed independent films such as Our Song (2000), The Dead Girl (2006), and Night Catches Us (2010). Her other films include Save the Last Dance (2001), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Little Man (2006), For Colored Girls (2010), and Peeples (2013).

Born in Bronx, New York City, the daughter of Earl and Valerie Washington and lived a middle class life provided by her parents — her mother was a professor and educational consultant and her father was a real estate broker. Her father is of African American heritage and her and her mother is of Jamaican-American heritage.

Kerry graduated from The George Washington University 1998 (Phi Beta Kappa) with majors in anthropology and sociology and then studied at Michael Howard Studios in New York City.

Kerry Washington is an effective spokesperson for L’Oreal and she has appeared in many commercials and advertisements for the company.

Lead Actress 2

Image credit: www.fansshare.com

Did you know that a Black actress has never won in this category, in the 65 years since the first Primetime Emmys were awarded?

Scandal

Since April 2012, Washington has starred in the ABC drama series Scandal, created by Shonda Rimes, as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager who runs her own crisis management firm called Pope  & Associates in Washington, D.C. The show has been a commercial and critical success, and has been called one of the most talked about drama series on Twitter by Buzzfeed.

Lead Actress 3Image credit: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/19/showbiz/tv/emmys-2013-kerry-washington-it-girl/?hpt=en_c1

Its success has also drawn attention to racial questions in television, as Washington is the first African-American actress to lead an American network drama series since 1974, when Teresa Graves starred in the crime drama Get Christie Love! on ABC.

Washington's performance has earned positive reviews, and in 2013, she won the award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the 44th NAACP Image Awards and was also presented with the NAACP President's Award. The same year, she was also named ‘Favorite actress’ and Scandal was named ‘Favorite Drama’ of the year at TV Guide's Magazine Fan Favorite Awards.

For her work in the second season of Scandal, Washington was nominated for an Emmy at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards becoming the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category of Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 18 years.

The last time an African-American woman was up for such an honor was when she was starting out — (Cicely Tyson was nominated for her work in Sweet Justice in 1995). Washington welcomes and embraces the recognition but stresses that mastery of her craft is her driving force.

"I don't approach the work or the life of the work from the perspective of, like, what are voters gonna think," Washington told Entertainment Weekly after she was nominated. "Or, what are critics gonna think? I just can't. Once you try to please a specific perspective or audience, it gets in the way of the work. The work is telling the story, and that's what you have to do: Tell the story in the best way possible to serve the creative vision and to serve the story. You can never control how it's going to be received," www.cnn.com.

A Black actress has never won in this category, in the 65 years since the first Primetime Emmys were awarded. In the Primetime Emmy's 65-year history, Black actresses have been nominated just 9 times in that specific category —Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

By: Karl A. Haughton

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