Anyone who watches Scandal while following along on Twitter knows that the show’s biggest fan is none other than Olivia Pope herself, Kerry Washington. The actress live-tweets every week and even admits to having a hand in season two’s direction.
Over the weekend she chatted with InStyle‘s Editorial Director Ariel Foxman at South by Southwest in Austin to talk about all things social media, including how Twitter saved her little show called that could (Scandal) and why her interest in style is all business-oriented.
Though the actress was there to contribute to a panel called “The New Rules of Social Stardom,” she admitted she was very hesitant about embracing social media — much like she was about red carpet style initially (and look how much of a pro she is now!).
“My entry to social media was a lot like my entry to fashion. I didn’t grow up loving fashion, but there came a point where I started noticing certain actresses being considered for roles because of their presence on the red carpet,” the star says. “In the same way that I realized I’d better start learning about fashion, I thought I’d better get started on social media.”
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And she learned to love it quickly, especially because she credits it as the thing that “saved” Scandal from cancellation. “Shonda [Rhimes] is my social media she-ro,” she says. “While we were filming the first season, I emailed Shonda and said ‘You’re the boss, could you ask the whole cast to live-tweet it so that they all join in because they’ll feel like they have to?’ I truly believe that we wouldn’t have had a second season if it wasn’t for that engagement.”
THANK YOU to @arielfoxman and #sxsw2016 for an extraordinary morning. What a wonderful dialogue with fantastic questions from my friend Ariel and our fab FULL HOUSE STANDING ROOM audience! I'm so grateful to everyone who came. And as I said during the discussion I am forever indebted to the phenomenon that is social media! LOVE YALL.
Even five seasons deep now, she’s as serious as ever about her live-tweeting. “Thursday nights are intense in Shondaland. If I see that I have a really hard scene scheduled to shoot on a Thursday night, I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t do this scene, I’ll be tweeting!’
She also credits social media for helping contain the controversy surrounding her 2015 March InStyle cover (readers claimed her skin was lightened but the magazine claims it was not.) “We were able to move forward in such a way that people felt heard and recognized, which is important to me,” she explained. “Social media has the power to give a voice to the previously voiceless. There are more voices at the table than ever before, and those voices have a place to be heard.”
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But some social media “don’ts” for the actress include talking about her personal life (it’s all off-limits) and reading the comments sections. “I don’t read comments on other platforms. Not only comments about myself … if someone is commenting on a picture of Jennifer Lopez, I won’t read those either. People are just so mean.”
The only exception could be on therapy days. “Quite frankly, sometimes I decide whether to read comments based on how close I am to a therapy appointment. Like, ‘Can I handle it today?’ If you don’t like something I say or do, your reaction is really you sharing who you are with me. I ask myself, ‘How able am I to give people space to be who they are without letting it affect me?”
So, what did the actress think of the panel? We’ll give you one guess where she shared those thoughts.
What do you think of Washington’s feelings on social media? Share in the comments below.
— Colleen Kratofil