Kerry Washington talks paternity bombshell, eating disorder, contemplating suicide and more with Robin Roberts

In advance of her new memoir, the normally private actress made some stunning revelations.

Kerry Washington on a primetime special edition of 20/20 (ABC)
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Kerry Washington was the subject of a new 20/20 special on Sunday, where she revealed secrets about her family, her personal struggles and her life in general as she has cemented herself as one of the most popular actresses of her generation.

The special was hosted by Robin Roberts and is in anticipation of Washington’s new memoir, Thicker Than Water, which is due out Tuesday. Here is a look at the biggest revelations from the conversation and how viewers reacted on social media.

Washington’s paternity shocker

One of the big reveals from her book that she dove into on Sunday was finding out recently that her dad, Earl Washington, is not her biological father and instead, she was born from a sperm donor.

"It was amazing, because I was at once shocked, like completely shocked. At the same time, it felt like some sort of weird confirmation. It was like they took glasses off me and cleaned them and handed them back to me,” Washington said.

The truth bomb came because of Washington’s participation in the series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., and her parents' hesitance about doing the DNA testing that's involved.

"When my dad told me, I realized every time that I have said, 'I love you,' to my dad, that there has been this little part of his brain, conscious or unconscious, that has had to have said, 'She loves me because she thinks I am her father,’” Washington told Roberts. "So I'm saying I love him, from his perspective, on the condition of a lie. The moment that he told me, I realized that I had the opportunity to, for the first time, love my father unconditionally. That he got to hear me say, 'I love you, even though I know.'"

Washington said that the new information has been a “call to adventure” as she has set out to find her donor. And that’s something she said her father is, “maybe not thrilled” about, “but accepting and supportive.”

Washington’s abortion story

In her memoir, Washington revealed that she had an abortion in her 20s as her career was taking off, giving the doctors a fake name in the process but recalling that a nurse still pointed out that she recognized her “from the movies.”

That lack of privacy she experienced is one of two reasons Washington decided to write about the experience. The other, as she told Roberts, is this: "We stay in our circles of shame because we don't talk about it. So, I challenged myself to try to write about my experience having an abortion to sort of let go of the shame about having an abortion and say, like, 'This is what — this happens. A lot of women do this. This is a form of health care. This is OK."

Washington’s eating disorder and self-destructive behavior

After touching on some of the party habits Washington had developed behind closed doors as a teenager, using things like alcohol, weed, food and sex to act out, the Scandal star said that by the time she got to college it had turned into extreme self abuse in the form of an eating disorder, involving “starvation, binge eating, body obsession and compulsive exercise.”

Eventually Washington began to realize that she was really trying to hurt herself with these behaviors. Roberts asked if she had considered suicide and Washington replied, “Yeah,” calling it, “Tiny little acts of trying to destroy myself.”

She went on to describe to Roberts how that led her to do something she had never done before.

"The first time that I actually got on my knees and prayed to some power greater than myself to say like, 'I can't do this. I need some help with my eating disorder," Washington said.

Washington’s childhood trauma

Going back even further in her life, Washington talked about what happened when a boy allegedly touched her repeatedly while she was asleep during sleepovers. She said that after she learned of the alleged events, she decided to protect the predator instead of telling on him.

"That little girl made the choice to not tell anyone. I have a great deal of compassion for where the choice came from, and even a little admiration for that little girl, but I also adore her and feel so sad that she carried the burden of that on her own for so long. And so, I wanted to make a choice to tell a truth that she couldn't,” Washington said.

Viewers react to Washington’s bombshells

Not surprisingly, Washington’s many revelations left many viewers stunned as they took to social media with their reactions. Most were appreciative of her willingness to share these things and thanked her for her vulnerability.

Thicker Than Water is available in bookstores Tuesday, Sept. 26.