Kerry Washington’s mom wanted her to go to law school, didn’t want a ‘starving artist child’

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Riding high on her Emmy nominations for American Son and Little Fires Everywhere, Kerry Washington is on fire, no pun intended. Kerry continues to expand her belief that“art is activism” and is taking on her first documentary film, The Fight, about the lawyers who started the ACLU.

Kerry would never have been an actress if she would have followed her mother’s plan. This makes her first documentary project somewhat ironic. Kerry spoke to People magazine about her new project, its connection to her acting roots and how her mother, a university professor, tried to persuade her to become a lawyer.

On the plans her mom had for her life
“She really, really wanted me to go to law school,” Washington tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, opening up about life, parenting and her powerful new documentary The Fight.

“Oh my God, it’s what she begged me to do. She used to say to me, ‘Closing arguments are just like monologues’,” recalls the star. “She was terrified to have a starving artist of a child.”

On art and activism
“I started my life as a social justice activist,” says Washington. “I was 12 or 13, doing HIV/AIDS education and advocacy work in New York through an arts and education theater company. For my whole life, art and social change have been impossible to separate.”

On the connection between her mom’s plan for her and her new project The Fight
“One of the lawyers in the film, Dale [Ho], and I were actually in acting class together 20 years ago,” she explains. “It was right before he went to law school. He made the choices that would have made my mother proud, and I did the other stuff.”

[From People]

I am glad that Kerry followed her passion because I can’t imagine someone else playing Olivia Pope or Chenille. However, I think she would have been just as formidable as Olivia in the courtroom. I’m really looking forward to watching The Fight when it airs. I think it’s incredible that one of the founding attorneys of the ACLU, Dale Ho, was also in her acting classes twenty years ago! This proves to me that there’s not much separation between art and activism. I hope Kerry continues to grow as a director and that her future projects continue to rattle the status quo. In the meantime, I’ll just be inspired by Olivia Pope and go make myself a bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine.

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A post shared by Kerry Washington (@kerrywashington) on

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