Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kerry Washington on SNL

Love me some Kerry Washington.  I have for years.  I am so glad my friends on the East Coast messaged me to stay up on the West Coast and, at least, see her opening sketch on Saturday Night Live.  Kerry Washington has got the comedy gift.  She was a terrific host.  I laughed at every single sketch she did.  SNL needs to bring her back for more.

On Facebook, one of my former network TV reporter friends is unfamiliar with Kerry Washington and the hit ABC political drama series, Scandal.  Kerry stars on that show.  She's the first African-American actress in nearly 40 years to have the lead on a network drama series.  Another friend was surprised to learn Kerry's an American.  Kerry grew up in the Bronx.  She's a native New Yorker.  Her work last night on NBC showed that she's got even more range than we realized.

I was first dazzled by her when I saw Ray (2004) at a movie theater on the corner of 19th and Broadway back in downtown New York City.  Kerry Washington starred opposite the amazing Jamie Foxx in his Oscar winning performance as the late, great Ray Charles.

Kerry played one of the women in Ray's life.  She  lit up the screen as Della Bea.  You know how you see an actor and there's just a little something extra about him or her that connects with you as a moviegoer?  That star quality thing?

I got that feeling watching Kerry Washington in Ray -- the feeling that she had star quality.
The next time I saw her on the big screen, she was opposite another black man who, like Jamie Foxx, would make Hollywood history as one of the few black men to with the Oscar for Best Actor.  Kerry Washington worked opposite Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland (2006).  He starred as Idi Amin.  She played one of the African women in the life of the jealous and murderous Ugandan dictator.  James McAvoy co-starred.

Kerry was "Meryl Streep good" in The Last King of Scotland.  It took me a few minutes to realize she was the same actress from Ray.  You really could've thought she was an African actress hired overseas for the part of Amin's wife who has to run for her life.

Then I had an up close and personal encounter with Kerry.  During a year when I was working on Whoopi Goldberg's syndicated weekday morning radio show (yes, Whoopi Goldberg had a morning radio show), I was contacted by a casting director.  She offered me one day of local SAG work as a background actor.  It would be for late morning to mid-afternoon shoot.  It was in midtown Manhattan.  I'd be a businessman carrying a newspaper and a briefcase walking behind the two stars of the film -- Chris Rock and Kerry Washington.  I had a job on national radio with Whoopi Goldberg but this shoot would be on a day off for me.  Being an extra doesn't pay a lot of money, but I eagerly took the offer for the learning experience.  Plus, it was a chance to do some acting.

The movie was a remake of a 1972 French classic.  A morality tale about a married Frenchman who develops an outside interest, shall we say.  Honestly, it was the kind of movie they do better in France.  Chris Rock was the director and he co-wrote his remake with Louis C.K.  From 1970s France, we were relocated to modern-day New York with a suburban commuter.

He gets himself into funny situations when he's offered a little "somethin'-somethin'" on the side and works to fend off temptation.

The original was Chloe in the Afternoon, a film by Eric Rohmer.

Chris Rock's comedy remake/update was called I Think I Love My Wife (2007).

Kerry Washington starred as the lovely, intelligent but rather bothersome temptation.  The actress did the best she could with an awkwardly written role.
My scene was an exterior, in front of Manhattan office building.  When the assistant director yelled "Cut!,"  after Kerry's character walks up to the businessman Rock played, Kerry shouted "Hey!" and walked over to me with a big smile and her arms stretched out for a hug.  She'd recognized me from my TV work.  There I was blending in as a background actor.  She treated me like a co-star.

Because of an enthusiastic review from Roger Ebert, I rented  Mother and Child starring Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Naomi Watts, Jimmy Smits and Kerry Washington.
Ebert had high praise for Samuel L. Jackson's performance, one that showed how subdued and sophisticated he can be.  It reminds us of how strong and versatile an actor he is.  He's not the only one in the cast who delivers a strong, smart performance in Mother and Child.  At the heart of the film, is motherhood and adoption in the lives of some Southern Californians.  We also see the difficulties and the hungers people have in establishing connections with others.  Mother and Child is a very good movie.  The writing, the direction and the acting are mature and touching.  This was a Southern California that I knew.  These were people that I felt I knew.  Roger Ebert was so right about Samuel L. Jackson in this film.  He and Naomi Watts were excellent together.
Kerry Washington is a frustrated suburban L.A. wife who desperately wants a child.
After my second time watching 2009's Mother and Child, I recommended it to a friend and told her that I was waiting for that one project that would make Kerry Washington pop and bring the actress the national attention she deserves.

And then came the sexy political prime time thriller, Scandal, on ABC.  Pop!

In addition in to TV's Scandal, she reunited with Jamie Foxx for the controversial Oscar-winning hit from director Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained.
Tarantino's film also reunited her with Mother and Child co-star, Samuel L. Jackson.
Last night, Kerry Washington as Oprah Winfrey with President Obama when SNL mocked its own lack of racial diversity in its new cast made me do the DTST with my beverage (Danny Thomas Spit Take).  I laughed that hard.  The lady's got comedy skills.
Again, Kerry was "Meryl Streep good."  She nailed Oprah's vocal inflections and her movements, especially the way Oprah walks in high heels.  Brilliant attention to detail.  This actress is so talented.  Yes, Saturday Night Live needs to have Kerry Washington back.  And, hopefully, last night's show will make NBC realize that SNL really needs to add black women to its cast if the show continues.  Or have black talent host a late night NBC talk show.  Or review movies on a network morning news show.  Or be named anchor of NBC's weeknight evening news.

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