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June 2005
TIME FOR SOME ACTION: KERRY WASHINGTON talks post-Ray, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and The Fantastic Four

TIME FOR SOME ACTION: KERRY WASHINGTON talks post-Ray, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and The Fantastic Four

By Wilson Morales

How do you come back to the big screen after an amazing performance that garnered national attention and accolades? For Kerry Washington, she's like to take every film and its entire glory one step at a time. Fresh from winning the Best Actress award at the NAACP Image Awards, and being featured on this year's Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, Washington's next two films have been getting worldwide attention for different reasons. In Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Washington plays the best friend to Angelina Jolie's character. One would have to be in a coma to not know about the attention that Brad Pitt and Angelina have been receiving from the media in regards to their on and "off" screen romance. Later this summer, Washington will be playing the role of Alicia Masters in "The Fantastic Four", based on the comic book. Fans of the comic book will watching her role as they know that originally the character is a blonde haired blue eyed gal. Either way you look at it, Washington is caught in the middle of the "action". In speaking to blackfilm.com, Washington goes over her roles in both films as well as talks about her future plans with fiancÚ David Moscow.

How did "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" come about?

Kerry Washington: It's a supporting role. The film is mostly about the two of them and when I read the script, I wasn't sure what the film was going to be or what my part was going to look like, but (director) Doug Liman was really passionate about me playing the role and felt really strong about it. He took me out to brunch and convinced me that I would have enough fun doing the stunts. It was really interesting because I was at a place of making the decision to not play the white girl's best friend anymore. I felt like doing a big budget action movie where I got to do some stunts or something that I was interested in and this film would be an opportunity to get a taste of it and see if I like it. He came on strong and I agreed to do it for Doug and for the fun of it. It turned out to be a fun exper

ience and a nice way to say goodbye to playing the white girl's best friend.

Did the reshoots that Brad (Pitt) and Angelina (Jolie) came back for affect any of your scenes?

KW: No, I don't think so. It's hard to know. There were so many cooks in the kitchen on this particular film. I haven't seen the final product.

In one of the scenes that you are in, you and Angelina are rock climbing? Did that actually take place and if so, had you done it before?

KW: We were climbing but we weren't on a mountain. There were some blue screens used but we did climb together on a wall that was standing in place of a mountain.

How was working with Angelina (Jolie)?

KW: Angelina is really easy to work with. She's really lovely and very smart. She's really great.

With Mr. & Mrs. Smith coming out and all the news surrounding Angelina and Jolie and their alleged off-screen involvement, does this make you think twice about working on-screen with your fiancÚ, actor David Moscow (Big, Honey)?

KW: We actually are starting a production company together. We both have lots of things that we want to produce and some of them feature both of us in them and some don't. We work very well together behind the scenes so far in the development process. We both respect each other's acting enormously.

From one action film to another, you have a role in "The Fantastic Four" where you play the blind sculptress, Alicia Masters. How did that role come about considering that her character in the comic book has her as a blonde haired and blue eyed gal?

KW: I signed on for all three films in order to do the first one, and with this film it's really more about the Thing meeting Alicia and introducing their relationship. Most of the film is about how the four leads become superheroes and how they deal with it. My managers and agent pitched the idea to the studio for me to play the role and the studio, because I have a really great relationship with Fox, were open to it. They were able to expand their minds and think a little outside the box and so they made it happen, which was great.

Were you a fan of the comic book?

KW: No. I'm not a big comic book reader. I'm not a comic book person. Growing up, I read "Betty and Veronica". After I got the role, I started reading them and I have a lot of male cousins whom I'm close with and they were really into The Fantastic Four. I remember the cartoon so I really enjoyed getting to know the comic book even more. I'm glad I didn't have a relationship with the comic. I wasn't worried that she was blonde haired and blue eyed. I just showed up to do my job.

Coming off from Ray, had you talked to Jamie Foxx about playing a blind character?

KW: I didn't talk to Jamie about it. I had spent enough time working with him and watching his process and didn't really feel the need to do that. One of the useful things in watching Jamie was that he actually was blind while we were shooting. For the most part, he had prosthetics over his eyes. The producers and the director wanted me to play the scenes with my eyes open. I knew that I didn't have that option, but I tried to do a lot of my rehearsals with a blindfold at least once so that I would have the same benefit that Jamie did of figuring out the things that I would stumble over and the things that would be challenging in the room. I also tried to spend time off-camera with my eyes closed or blindfolded as much as I could. It was hilarious walking around in my hotel in Vancouver with my eyes closed.

Was there a certain look that the producers or you wanted Alicia to have?

KW: It was interesting because she's a love interest so obviously the producers wanted her to look beautiful, but I kept fighting for the reality of it. She's a blind chic. I wanted to make sure that I was wearing my hair curly as opposed to straight because I didn't want to set up this idea that this blind girl would be at home all morning blow-drying her hair. That just didn't seem realistic to me. I wanted to wear my hair the way it is when it's wet. She's also an artist and the voice in the film that that sort of encourages The Thing to be different and not be afraid of being unique. I wanted to make her the funky art student so I watched a lot of art students in New York to see what the style was that girls would walk around in. There were a lot of fashion students and art students who weren't afraid of being different. Along with the costume designer, we tried to pick a lot of her clothes based on intrinsic fabric. I imagine that when she shops, she would shop on how things felt to her; things that were interesting enough for her to wear.

How was working with Michael Chiklis?

KW: He's great. Michael's great. It was so hard for him because he was in prosthetics from head to toe. He was fighting insane temperatures in that body suit and was really able to bring his acting game to the table even though he was distracted by all this physical trauma he was going through every second.

What did you learn from (director) Tim Story?

KW: I love Tim. He's a sweetheart. The thing that is so great about Tim is that he really worked hard to not let the pressure take its toll on him. He really stayed cool under pressure. He just stayed calm and kind at all times, no matter how big the budget, no matter how much the pressure and I think there's a lot to be learned from that.

With you signed on for the sequels, should there be one, will your part get bigger? Although this film is more introductory of the Fantastic Four, Alicia Master's family plays a bigger stretch further into the comics.

KW: We talked about it. We'll see. They (the sequels) haven't been written yet. A lot of it depends on how well the film does and all that, but yes, there's been some exciting talk about that. There's a scene with Michael and I and we're in my art studio and he notices some puppets and he's says, "Are those yours? Did you make those?" and I say, "No, my stepdad did." So for fans of the comic book, it's a nice allusion to what's to come.

With an NAACP Image award for best actress and being on the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, how has your career been post-Ray?

KW: It's still one foot in front of the other. I'm still reading scripts and figuring out what's the right thing.

Have the roles gotten better?

KW: Yeah. The quality of what I have access to has improve, which is been really great.

Any more dramatic roles lined up?

KW: I'm actually leaving for Uganda in a few days to start work on a film. It's called "The Last King of Scotland". It's based on Idi Amin and the story is centered on Idi Amin in Uganda. Forest Whitaker is playing Idi. I play one of his wives.

How was working on "Boston Legal" this year with William Shatner?

KW: It was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun on that show.

Would you consider doing a TV series on a regular basis?

KW: It's not really in my larger vision and goals right now. I imagine in a couple of more decades it's something I might want to do more of. I sort of made a detour of my general plan because I got a call from David E. Kelley on my cell phone telling me that he had written this role for me and I felt like I should probably do it for that reason and I was glad that I did. It was really fun. I particularly enjoyed working with James Spader. He's incredible talented and a delight to work with.

How often do you like to do indie films?

KW: "The Last King of Scotland" is an independent film. My career has always been about jumping back and forth between big studio films and independent films. It's always been my vision and that's what I want to do. After doing the Spike Lee film, "She Hate Me" and "Ray", and then doing the big budgeted "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "The Fantastic Four", it's nice to go back and do this pleasant little British independent film in Uganda. That's always been my goal, to go and back between big and small films.

MR. & MRS. SMIITH opens on June 10 - click here for photos

THE FANTASTIC FOUR opens on July 8 - click here for photos


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