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Kerry Washington Reveals How Vulnerable She Felt Playing a Mom in Netflix’s American Son

For the past seven years, we have watched Kerry Washington play Olivia Pope on Scandal. But in her latest movie, Netflix’s American Son, Washington plays a mother — and the actress has a lot of feelings about the role.

“After playing Olivia Pope for seven seasons, I was having this alternate reality in my real life of becoming a mom and I didn’t get to explore any of the feelings around becoming a mom while I was playing Olivia — because she chose not to be one, which is a choice I totally respect,” Washington told ET. “But to be able to kind of explore how vulnerable parenting makes you is a privilege for me at this point in my career.”

American Son sounds like a particularly emotional vehicle to explore those feelings. The drama, which debuts November 1, follows an estranged husband and wife who come together in a police station to assist in the search for their missing teenage son. The film is based on a play of the same name, by Christopher Demos-Brown, who also wrote the screenplay. Washington starred in both the play and the movie, which both address racial tension, police brutality and stereotyping in America today.

“It was so important for me to allow people the privilege of stepping into the lives of this family and being on this roller coaster ride with them,” Washington, who also served as executive producer of the film, told ET. “Because I think it gives us all an opportunity to reflect on who we are as a society right now, reflect on who we are in our marriages, in our homes with our kids and just take stock of where we’re at and how we’re doing.”

“I think we’re at a moment where police violence is such an extraordinary problem in our culture,” Washington said. “And I think there’s a danger that these young men and women are becoming statistics. We don’t know their names, or we don’t think about their humanity, we’re just thinking about enormous numbers.”

Washington and her husband, Nnamdi Asomugha, have two children together, and Asomugha also has a daughter from a previous relationship. Washington’s role as a mother made the play and the film even more poignant, as well as the issues at hand.

“When I think about it as a mom, I think about how mothers feel, like that fear of having a black child and not knowing if they’re going to be OK in the middle of the night,” she said. “And I just feel like tapping into that horror, parental concern and love, is so universal and helps us to protect these young men and women from being statistics and instead being a full, three dimensional, beautiful human beings that they are.”

American Son debuts on Netflix on November 1.

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