Kerry Washington tells Graham Norton about her parent’s reaction to eye-opening memoir

Virgin Radio

21 Oct 2023, 14:48

Hollywood actress and activist Kerry Washington has opened up about the moment she shared the pages within her very personal memoir - Thicker Than Water. 

In the eye-opening tome, the Scandal star gives readers an intimate view into both her public and private worlds, from her upbringing to her acting career and beyond. 

The book opens with the life-altering moment in Kerry’s life when she discovered her father was not her biological father. The pages ahead then deal with issues around identity, family and belonging. 

While an ultimately uplifting experience, the Django Unchained actress also had to face showing her parents the book and all the secrets within, and she shared their reaction while on The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose

When asked if she involved her parents while writing up the reflective book, Kerry admitted to Graham that she didn’t “share along the way” as that would’ve “crippled” her. 

“I don't think I would have written the book I've written, as honestly as I've written it, if I was seeking their approval along the way,” she explained. “But I did write the book that I felt very called to write and then I shared it with them before sending it to the publisher.”

On how they found reading about their daughter’s emotional journey, especially dealing with such a family secret, the big-screen star added: “My parents have been so incredible.

“One of the things I've said to people is, when they gave me this information, I realised my family had been doing this dance, this sort of performance of this perfect family where we had no issues. And in some ways, I had been like a supporting character in the story of their lives. When they gave me this information, it was an opportunity for me to become the lead character in the story of my life, and maybe let them be supporting characters if they were willing.”

She continued: “They've been so proud and so supportive. My dad is quick to say it's not necessarily the book he would have written.”

While there are some moments in the book that Kerry and her parents “agree to disagree” on, the Emmy-winning actress shared how her mum responded to not just sharing that very personal moment, but every page within the book. 

She told Graham: “My mom's also a retired professor. So when she read it, she came to my house and gave me a huge hug and said, 'I'm so proud of you. It's so beautifully written. It's so honest, it's so lovely…I have some notes and red markings and post-its', and she was fact-checking me but it was helpful. She made the book better.”

Not only were her parents a huge part of the building the story of her life, but one character in particular was vital in processing her formative years - Scandal’s Olivia Pope. 

“I feel like they've been mentors to me, all these women,” Kerry said of the characters she’s played.

“As an actor, you get to drop into their life at these pivotal moments when they're learning a big life lesson. I've gotten to learn those life lessons and then incorporate them into my life. Once I understood this new revelation from my parents, I realised why I had spent so much time kind of looking for myself in these characters. I was always looking to understand more about myself or have more clarity about who I was. I often felt more clear about who characters were than who I was.”

Thicker Than Water: A Memoir by Kerry Washington is out now. 

Listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show every Saturday AND Sunday from 9.30am on Virgin Radio or catch up on-demand here.