Kerry Washington Discusses Filming the Ferguson-Inspired Episode Of ‘Scandal’

Last week, Scandal aired an episode that dealt with police brutality, which not only recalled the fatal shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, but the death of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and all of the innocent Black teenagers who’ve suffered at the hands of law enforcement.

During last night’s PaleyFest panel, moderated by Jimmy Kimmel, the cast of the series addressed what it was like to film such an important episode.

“We felt like our table read was very different. Our table read was very quiet,” said Olivia Pope herself, Kerry Washington. “Even Twitter—you know Twitter’s a big part of the culture of our show—Twitter was very different. Darby [Stanchfield] and I were talking before this, and we were saying it didn’t feel like a Twitter party. It felt like a period of reflection.”

On the carpet, Tony Goldwyn also recalled the solemnity during the table read and added, “Courtney Vance [who played Clarence Parker, the victim’s father] and I have been friends from 25 years, longer probably. In college, we were in a play together, so to have that connection as a people and two [characters] who had lost their sons, it was really powerful.”

While some viewers thought the episode ended too happily, others chose to look past that and focus on the necessity of the episode in the first place. One such person was Guillermo Diaz, best known on the show as Huck.

“I think America and the world needs to see this sort of thing on television. I don’t think we can move forward or move past racism or homophobia or these sorts of issues without putting them in the light and being like, ‘Look this is what’s happening,’” said Diaz. “And a lot of people were kind of pissed that it was on a television show where they want to escape and not see those things, but it’s necessary. We got people talking and discussing and hopefully changing and moving forward.”

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Toward the end of the panel, a fan brought up the episode in a question to Washington about it was like for her, and added the following statement: “This was about as Black as I’ve seen you on the show.”

After the crowd erupted in giggles, Washington, whose voice was weak due to laryngitis, powered through her sickness to offer a thoughtful response.

“It was really important to us that the show be about a woman who’s Black, but who’s a lot of things, so we never trafficked in the race stuff that much…But it did feel like we were at a point where the writers were comfortable now embracing fully this part of Olivia’s identity, and I like that it was a journey for Olivia herself,” said Washington. “She had to cross the picket line to validate her Black card. I was very moved that Shonda [Rhimes] had a lot feelings about what’s been going on and her form of protest…her way to contribute is to write, and so for all of us to be able to tell this story was such an honor. It was a nice sort of coming-of-race for Olivia.”

But the actress made sure to remind people that the episode wasn’t about Olivia Pope. “The overriding subject of the episode was so much more important,” she said. “It eclipses any one person’s identity because it was about lives mattering, regardless of who you’re born as.”

The audience, and her fellow panelists, which also included Joshua Malina, Scott Foley, Bellamy Young, Jeff Perry, and Katie Lowes, applauded her answer.

You’ve got to admit that Washington was right: at the end of day, the episode shined a light on the value of every individual life.

[Photo Credit: ABC]

Tara Aquino is an entertainment writer based out of L.A. She likes people, places, and things.