After playing Olivia Pope for seven seasons, the actor is reprising the role she originated on Broadway in a new film adaptation for Netflix. And when she visited the EW and PEOPLE video suite at the Toronto International Film Festival, she revealed that her American Son character is going to be quite the departure from her Scandal alter ego.
“This character is like the un-Olivia Pope,” Washington says. “She’s about as different from Olivia Pope as you can possibly get, and I think that’s probably why I was drawn to her. She was such a huge challenge for me as an actress to spend seven or eight years playing somebody and then try to have the pendulum swing in the total opposite direction. She is not — there is no Prada in this one folks, sorry.”
American Son is a tense drama that takes place entirely in the waiting room of a South Florida police station in the middle of a stormy night. Directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon, the play-turned-movie tells the story of Kendra Ellis-Connor (Washington), a psychology professor searching for answers regarding her missing teenage son. The story is framed around four viewpoints, including Kendra’s estranged husband (Pasquale) and two officers (Jordan, Lee). Washington and her costars from the original production — Doubt‘s Steven Pasquale, Supergirl‘s Jeremy Jordan, and theater veteran Eugene Lee — all return to reprise their Broadway roles in this evolution of writer Christopher Demos-Brown’s story.
“I love playing Kendra because she’s a mom and she is a wife although she is separated and she’s really accessible,” Washington says of her new role. “She’s a working class, really smart … she’s grappling with relationships in a really different way. She’s super open and vulnerable and we meet her at a point in her life where she’s really changing who she is.”
Check out her full interview above.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through to Sept. 15. American Son will debut in a “television event” Nov. 1 on Netflix.