"Scandal" actress Kerry Washington films a public-service announcement for the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse campaign in support of women affected by domestic and financial abuse. (Sept. 15)
LOS ANGELES — It didn't take the Ray Rice elevator video to get Kerry Washington talking about domestic violence.
In fact, it was the day before news outlets were looping security camera images of the NFL running back punching out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer that the "Scandal" actress was filming a public service announcement about a rarely discussed component of domestic violence known as financial abuse.
"For many, many of those cases — 98 percent of those cases — the financial abuse is what keeps a woman trapped," Washington said. "Not being able to control your finances, destroying a woman's credit, jeopardizing her job."
In her PSA, Washington says "one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence. Finances are almost always a weapon of choice."
Washington rarely talks to reporters about anything outside of her work. She keeps her private life so private that many in Hollywood were surprised by the news in June 2013 that she had married former NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, with whom Washington welcomed their first child, daughter Isabelle Amarachi, in April.
Washington said she's taken guidance in her new role as working mother from her own mom, as well as another working mother: "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes.
"I have really amazing role models and she-roes who have found ways to balance work and home life, and so I am just looking to them and trying to live in the amazing abundance of blessings that I have in my life right now," Washington said.
"Scandal," for which Washington has earned two Emmy nominations, returns for a fourth season Sept. 25, and Washington promised season-three cliffhangers would be quickly addressed. When last we saw her character, Capitol Hill fixer Olivia Pope, she was leaving on a jet plane for points unknown.
"I can tell you (that) you will find out where that plane is going," Washington teased at last month's Emmy Awards. " And I can tell you there's going to be a lot of (actress Darby Stanchfield's character) Abby this season. I've heard it's been called, 'The Year of Abby.'"
One of Olivia's so-called "gladiators," Abby is a victim of domestic violence.
"Darby Stanchfield and I, as actors, talk a lot about, 'What was that like when Olivia stepped in and took a tire iron to some guy's knee to save her girlfriend?'" Washington noted. "'What were the stakes that would make her do something like that?'"
That "Scandal" storyline has resonated with many viewers, Washington said. "Women watch that (Abby's story) and say to Darby when they see her in public, 'I'm so glad to know that you guys aren't shying away from that issue.'"
Washington was asked to do the domestic abuse PSA by The Allstate Foundation, which had already put into motion an initiative called "Purple Purse," to raise awareness of domestic abuse involving money. Washington said the facts and figures presented were such eye openers that she immediately agreed to serve as the campaign's spokeswoman.
Washington also designed a symbolic purse to raise funds for the initiative. Just 500 will be produced, with some given to celebrities to chat up the cause while speaking to reporters at red carpet events. Other purses will be given to charities, some of which are expected to use them as fundraisers, with the purses ultimately going to abuse survivors.
As Washington held one of the purses in her lap, she explained, "For me, one of the things I wanted to combine was this idea of elegance and classic traditional design, with something kind of funky and fashion forward," acknowledging she was going to have to find a few new wardrobe items that work with purple.
Not that this will be a problem.
Washington has been among top designers' favorites since at least 2004, when she dazzled in the big-screen "Ray." Rungs in her climb to the A-list included roles in the acclaimed films "The Last King of Scotland" (2006) and "Django Unchained" (2012).
But it was TV's "Scandal," which debuted on ABC in 2012, that made Washington a household name and now has given her the star power to both promote causes, and produce, as well as act, in film and television projects.
"I feel like I need to work on a whole new list of goals," Washington said. "So many of my desires and visions and dreams have already come true."
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