Dog in one hand, breakfast in the other, actress Kerry Washington was racing to board an LA-bound flight when her cell phone rang. On the other end of the line was her publicist and friend, Michelle.
The news couldn't wait: The nominees for the 65th Prime Time Emmys had just been announced and Washington suddenly found herself in the running for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
As crises fixer Olivia Pope, the pivotal role in creator Shonda Rimes' WABC's "Scandal," she spent the last two seasons tidying up the messes of Washington, D.C.'s movers and shakers, while heating up the sheets with President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). Upping the voyeurism intrigue was the small gold band already on the Chief Executive's left hand. The third season is getting set to premiere Thursday, October 3 in the 10 PM time slot.
More immediate, however, is Washington's appearance at this Sunday's Emmys ceremony -- if the Bronx native succeeds in taking home the statuette it will mark the first time in Emmys' 65 year history that the prestigious honor was bestowed on an African-American woman.
Putting things in clearer perspective 28 years have passed since Cicely Tyson was last nominated in the same category for her work on NBC's "Sweet Justice."
"I'm so grateful. I'll spend the rest of my life saying that and it still won't be enough to express my appreciation," said Washington, 36. "There's lots of women on cable like, Jada Pinkett Smith for one. It's very exciting."
Washington said she wondered how the series would be perceived. "The pressure wasn't on us to make 'Scandal' a success, it was on the audience in America and now all over the world. The question was whether our audience was ready to embrace protagonists that look like a lot of different people." The actress noted, "The heroes of our stories are both black and white, Latin and Asian, but they are not defined by their race or ethnicity. It's not that this show couldn't have been done before by a wide range of talented actresses. The fact that the world is now ready is phenomenal."
Since graduating from the George Washington University in 1994, with a double major in anthropology and sociology, Washington's career has continued to build momentum. She confides, "I never really thought about acting. I wanted to be a shrink or a teacher. I didn't come from a showbiz family. I couldn't even imagine it could be a career for me. My mom, Valerie, was a college professor. "
"When I eventually thought I'd take a chance of making it a career was when I learned there were unions for actors. Unions are really important in my family and I understand what they mean. You can make a living acting and you don't have to be famous. Fame was never a part of why I came to do this work."
Washington played the spouse of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the Academy Award nominated, The Last King of Scotland.
Washington has already amassed an impressive collection of awards. Earlier this year, she was named recipient of the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series at the 44th NAACP Image Awards, along with the NAACP President's Award. TV Guide's magazine Fan Favorite singled her out as Favorite Actress, while People magazine ranked her Number Two among the 100 Most Beautiful People.
Do her family and friends treat her differently now that Washington is such a public figure? She heartily laughed, "My childhood friends are committed to treating me the way they always did."
The rapid fire pace of "Scandal" often leaves viewers wondering what's next. "In the beginning the cast thought that every single week. We don't get an entire outline for the season so you don't know what's coming next. It's one of the reasons we love to read the comments on Twitter because it's the same way we felt when we were reading it – shocked from week to week."