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Kerry Washington Is Stretching

Backstage and onstage, as producer and star, in American Son.

Kerry Washington. Photo: Andres Kudacki
Kerry Washington. Photo: Andres Kudacki

After seven seasons of Scandal, Kerry Washington has shed the trappings of the D.C. power fixer she played on television in favor of a political drama of a different sort. Onstage in Christopher Demos-Brown’s intimate play American Son, Washington is an anxious mother trying to track down her teenage kid in a Florida police station. It’s her second time on Broadway, after appearing in David Mamet’s Race nearly nine years ago. “I wasn’t necessarily looking to do theater again,” she says. “It really was the play that brought me back.” This time out, she’s also a producer.

In her final few rehearsals and first preview on October 6 at the Booth Theatre, Washington fine-tuned her performance with the rest of the cast and director Kenny Leon while preparing for the rigors of an eight-show-a-week schedule. “It’s one of the most athletic things you can do as an actor, to perform onstage,” Washington says. “So I try to make sure my body is ready to do that dance every night.”

Click or swipe below for a behind-the-scenes look at the show.

  1. “That Dance” Takes Different Forms: This pose wasn’t just for the camera: Washington likes to reorient herself during rehearsal sessions. (See also that move on the previous page.) “Sometimes when you’re trying to get a new perspective on the work, it helps to have a new perspective physically,” she says.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  2. Reading the script in her dressing room.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  3. Before rehearsal.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  4. A meeting with the crew.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  5. The Stage Has No Close-Ups: “Really, my character wouldn’t be wearing any makeup at all, because it’s four o’clock in the morning,” Washington remarks. “You’re doing it to make sure that people on the other side of the theater, with lights blasting on your face, will still know what you look like.”

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  6. With Steven Pasquale.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  7. With Steven Pasquale: “He’s first and foremost a delightful, beautiful, generous, compassionate, insightful human being,” she says of her co-star [far left], who plays her husband. “Then he brings all of that to his work.”

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  8. Prepping for rehearsal.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  9. Yoga in her dressing room.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  10. With Steven Pasquale.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  11. With Director Kenny Leon: In rehearsal, “some of our conversations are actor-to-director, and some of our conversations are producer-to-director,” Washington says. “I knew Kenny before this, but I have really grown to trust him in a very different way.”

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  12. After the First Preview: At the stage door, fans let out a roar. “There’s such a more immediate sense of gratitude” in theater, she says. “You have that in film, in television, but you don’t get to say ‘Thank you’ to people’s faces.”

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  13. Selfies with fans.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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  14. Leaving the Booth Theatre after the first show.

    Photo: Andres Kudacki

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*A version of this article appears in the October 15, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Kerry Washington Is Stretching