In this week’s edition of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Spotlight series, where the longtime host interviews Black movers and shakers in Hollywood and beyond, Kerry Washington opened up about how Olivia Pope, her character on the Shonda Rhimes hit Scandal, inspired her to write her memoir, Thicker Than Water.
In the below exclusive clip from the upcoming special, Winfrey asked Washington to share how Pope influenced the memoir.
“Olivia Pope in many ways helped me write this book, and that may sound crazy but I’m going to tell you how,” Washington started.
She explained that she had to figure out that she needed to explore who she really is, independent of her parents.
“One of the things I realized was that I needed to go on this journey of discovery once my parents gave me this information,” she said, referring to her mother conceiving her via sperm donor, Entertainment Tonight reported. “I never understood my story.”
She continued, sharing, “I didn’t really feel like I understood my calling, my mission, my passion, my life didn’t really make sense to me, because I felt like there was more and I didn’t know what the ‘more’ was.”
“I couldn’t connect it,” she echoed after Winfrey suggested that was what she was experiencing.
“When my parents gave me this information, I realized, ‘Oh, this is my call to adventure, this is my story,'” she said. “Up until 40, I have been the supporting character in the story of my parents’ lives. This has been their narrative and I’ve been the co-star.”
Washington revealed that she’s always felt defined by her parents, and detaching herself from that mentality was a profound experience.
“It’s time for me to step into the role of as protagonist in my life. I need to be the lead character of my life, and let them be supporting characters. I need to figure out what my story is,” she told Winfrey, confessing that “it’s not enough for me to just be a supporting character in their life.”
Though Washington noted that she doesn’t mind being a supporting character to her loved ones, especially in her husband’s, former football player Nnamdi Asomugha, life and her children’s lives.
“I can chose to to be a supporting character—I love to be the supporting character in the story of Nnamdi’s [Asomugha] life, I love being the supporting character in my children’s life, but that has to be a choice. It cannot be because I don’t know how to be the lead of my own life.”
Washington told Winfrey that, without her time on Scandal, she may not have had the guts to write Thicker Than Water.
“This book is kind of me attempting to step into the lead role as the character in the story of my life, and I think that Olivia Pope taught me that I could do that,” she said.
The actress, now author, hopes that everyone gets the chance to be the protagonist in their story.
“Every single one of us deserves to be the lead character in the story of their lives,” she said as Winfrey smiled warmly.
Watch the clip below:
The special airs on OWN on Oct. 28 at 10 p.m.