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September 2006
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND: An Interview with Kerry Washington

An Interview with Kerry Washington
By Wilson Morales

September 28, 2006

Kerry Washington continues to strengthen her status as one of the best actresses working today with each role. Having won many accolades for her role in the 2004 Oscar nominated film, “Ray”, which netted co-star Jamie Foxx a gold statue, Washington was later featured in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and had a small but important role in the blockbuster film, “The Fantastic Four”, in which she played the blind artist Alicia Masters. She will reprise her role in the sequel, “The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”, which is currently shooting in Canada. Earlier this year, she starred with the Wayans Bros. in the comedy film, ‘Little Man”. Her current project has Washington once again playing the role of a real life person in “The Last King of Scotland”. She plays one of the wives to known dictator Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Washington talks about her character, and her current projects, which include “I Think I Love My Wife” with Chris Rock.

Can you talk about the character you play and how the role came about?

Kerry Washington: Kay was Idi Amin’s third wife and she was the youngest of the wives and thought to be beautiful. She was a dancer and formerly educated, which is somewhat rare for an African woman at that time. They made sure that she was a part of the story, which was awesome for me.

Why do you think the film focused on this particular wife and not the others?

KW: In real life, Kay was the one who wound up having an affair. It was not with a white doctor; it was with an African doctor, and that’s probably why she’s included in the story, because she was one of the people who defied Amin. She took a dangerous risk having an affair behind his back.

Do you think any of Kay’s friends, should they go see this film, would have an objection watching Kay have an affair with a white man, although the character is a composite of many men in Kay’s life?

KW: I think the most important question is, “Did Kay have any friends?” I don’t think Kay had any friends. I think people in general would have been furious. I think it would have been very, very scandalous for her.

How much research did you do to know everything about Kay?

KW: As much as I could. There’s a little bit of writing about her. There are some pictures. I did some research on beauty magazines from Africa, the time, and in Europe to figures out what were the issues that were worth dealing with, and what the clothes were, and the books there were reading, and what were the things they wanted to know about. I spent time with a woman who was actually Kay’s cousin; a younger cousin.

When I spoke to Forest he had mentioned that he wasn’t sure if Idi was the main cause for Kay’s death. How much do you know as what really happened to Kay?

KW: There is a lot of scandal regarding her death. It depends on who you talk to. There are sort of three versions of the story. One is that she died of complications during the abortions. She had an affair with the African doctor who performed the abortion. Some people say that she died from complications from the abortion and that he chopped her up and put her in his trunk and that Idi found her there and sowed the pieces back together and displayed it publicly. Some people say that she died from complications from the abortion and that Idi chopped her up and sowed the pieces back together and displayed it publicly. Some people say that she actually made it through the abortion, got home, but was hemorrhaging from the operation and that’s how Idi knew what had happened and that he ordered her death, and had her chopped up and sowed back together. For me what is it important is not so much what happened in between but that she did in fact have an affair with another man. Regardless of who cut her up, Idi ordered her remains to be sowed back together in the wrong places and displayed for people to see what happens when they commit treason. There was too much of his manhood at stake to talk about the fact that this woman had committed adultery; instead it was he was Uganda and she had committed an act of treason against Uganda.

What do you make of Forest’s performance?

KW: I think Forest’s performance is absolutely brilliant!

Did you see him as Idi Amin?

KW: Totally and completely.

How was working with James McAvoy?

KW: He’s awesome. He’s really talented. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s a great actor and a very easy person to be around.

As much as we think we know about Idi Amin, what do you want the audience to know once they finish seeing the film?

KW: It’s such a complication question, but I think, for me honestly, and this is what I hope people don’t do. I think it’s really easy to sit in the theater and go, “Oh my God, that’s horrible, but I would never do that. I would never be a corrupt leader or I would never cheat on my husband or I would never become complicit in crimes against the nation and its people” and yet, when you walk in the world as a human being, people are committing crimes and the whole Enron thing is people having disregard for other people. People do cheat on their spouses sadly. Me, as an American, I have done marches against Iraq. I have spoken out against the war in Iraq and yet I’m a tax-paying American citizen, so in some ways, I am complicit in the murderous actions of my nation against other people. As much as I can sit in that theater and go, “Thank God I’m not like any of those people”, the reality is a different story. Every American that pays taxes… Can we really say that we are that different from McAvoy’s character, Nicholas Garrigan? There are horrible crimes of atrocities that are being committed by our government and what are doing to stop even though we know? I’m in Vancouver shooting the sequel to “The Fantastic Four” and in Canada, you see those coffins coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. I was running in the morning on the treadmill and I literally had to stop because when you see those coffins coming home, it changes you as a person. In this country, our government has made it so that we are not allowed to see that reality. In the way that Amin is doing things in secret and committing crimes behind the back of the Ugandan people, our government is killing people and not even letting us see the reality; not even letting participate in that truth so that we can make informed voting decisions based on that truth.

As you just mentioned that film you are shooting now, what can you say about the sequel to “The Fantastic Four” and what can we expect from your character?

KW: I can’t tell you anything. They printed the script with our names all over it so that if anything leaks, they know exactly where it leaked from. Because I like my job and because I don’t want to fight with (Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment) Tom Rothman and his studio has produced three of the films that I have coming out, I’m not going to tell you anything. In fact, I don’t know anything that’s going on in the set because I’m blind, at least my character is.

You have another film in the can, “The Dead Girl”. Is that still coming out?

KW: It is. It’s actually coming out this year. It was going to come out next year but they are so excited about it over at Lakeshore (Entertainment) that they are really pushing it to come out early next year, maybe January or February and it has an insane cast. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m excited to.

What’s the story about and who else is in the film?

KW: It has an amazing ensemble piece. It’s myself, Marcia Gay Harden, Brittany Murphy, Toni Collette, Giovanni Ribisi, Rose Bryne, James Franco, it’s insane, Josh Brolin; it’s an incredible cast. It’s a collection of stories that are seemingly unrelated that are in fact related; similar to “Crash” but the tone and subject matter are very, very different.

You also have “I Think I Love My Wife” with Chris Rock. How much fun was doing that?

KW: It’s a real departure for him. What I love about the film is that it’s a remake of an old French film, an Eric Rohmer film, a 1972 film called “Chloe In The Afternoon”. He’s done a modern take on that story called “I think I love my wife” and it’s exciting because that’s a different material for him and it’s very much a film as opposed to just a movie, but it is a dramedy and it’s smart, which I think is great.

With all these films that you are making these days, I seem to see you at different events around the world. How do you find time to travel and balance it with work?

KW: A lot of it is for work. My fiancé David (Moscow) and I really took advantage of Uganda when I was there shooting. We traveled a lot. We did a lot when we were there and just this past summer, he was doing a movie in Guatemala, so we were able again to take advantage and explore Central America. As one of the new faces of L'Oreal Paris, we have been to Europe a lot more, so part of it is that we try to figure where we are going for work and then we make sure we tag on days in the beginning and end.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND opens on September 27, 2006





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