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The 46-year-old actor recalled a conversation she had with Corden while learning about her family history during an episode of the What Now? with Trevor Noah podcast, which aired on 16 November. In her memoir, Thicker Than Water, which came out in September, Washington first revealed how she learned that her mother, Valerie, had conceived her through anonymous sperm donation, after experiencing a series of fertility issues.
Speaking to TV host Trevor Noah, she recalled that when she spoke to Corden about finding the sperm donor, he had a few concerns. According to Washington, her friend was worried about how that donor could impact the meaningful relationships she has in her personal life.
“James was like: ‘I need to talk to you. I love you. I’m very concerned about you seeking your donor because you have this beautiful life and, you know, I know your parents. I know your kids. I understand how beautiful your life is,’” she recalled. Washington shares two children – Isabelle, nine, and Caleb, seven – with husband Nnamdi Asomugha. She’s also the stepmother to Asomugha’s daughter from a previous relationship.
During her conversation with Noah, the Scandal star continued to recount how Corden was worried about how she would feel if she found the sperm donor.
“[Corden said]: ‘I don’t want you to give this person so much power that if they aren’t who you want them to be, that you suddenly think your life is a failure or that you are unlovable or unworthy in some way,’” she continued.
Washington then shared the “beautiful story” that Corden told her about one of his friends who used a sperm donor to have a child. She specified that the identity of that sperm donor was “not disclosed”, due to “the rules at this sperm bank”. However, according to Washington, Corden’s friend’s sperm donor still wrote “a note to the future child”.
“So this donor wrote a note to this child saying, and it gives me chills every time I think about it, saying: ‘Dear kid, I want you to know that I am not your father. That who I am is just helping. There are two people who are your parents. They loved you so much. They wanted to meet you so badly, and all they needed was a little bit of help. So they asked me to give them that help. But they are your parents,’” Washington recited.
She noted that after hearing this story, she ultimately felt like she “could get more information about [her] donor now”. Washington also added that she got to “that place” when writing her memoir, which made her realise that her parents’ love “manifested” her.
She then described the love she has for their parents, and how she’s become more understanding of the way in which they decided to conceive her.
“Their deep desire to know me and meet me and love me is what led them on this journey,” she said. “So I have to love all of who they are and know that they brought me into their world, into this world, with the good and the bad, and that the donor is just, the donor was some help.”
Following the release of her memoir in September, Washington first opened up about how she discovered that her dad wasn’t her biological father. During an interview with People, she said she actually only made this discovery after she told her parents that she planned to be a guest on Finding Your Roots, the PBS series hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr, in which Hollywood stars find out more about their ancestry. “It really turned my world upside down,” she said.
Before Washinton appeared on the show, Valerie and Earl sat down with Gates, who encouraged them to tell their daughter about the sperm donation. From there, they messaged Washington and asked to talk with her in the spring of 2018. According to the actor, once she heard the truth about her biological father, she felt a sense of clarity.
“When I got this information, I was like: ‘Oh. I now know my story,’” she said at the time. “I didn’t know what my story was, but I was playing the supporting character in their story.”
“I think that dissonance of like: ‘Somebody is not telling me something about my body,’ made me feel like there was something in my body I had to fix,” she continued.
The Little Fires Everywhere star also noted that she was then motivated to share her story in her own words, which led to her writing her memoir.
“This is really kind of me working to understand my life up until now, given this new information that I have that, in many ways, felt like sort of the missing puzzle piece,” she said. “My parents were not thrilled about me writing this. This really is a book about me. I now get to step into being the most important person in my life.”
However, she acknowledged that her relationship with her parents is still strong, adding that she has “so much more love and compassion and understanding” for them now.