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Kerry Washington Reflects on How Scandal Has Shaped Her: 'I'm Not the Same Person I Was 5 or 6 Years Ago'

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Kerry Washington had no idea how much her life would change when she signed on to play Olivia Pope on Scandal.

Just as her character has grown in ways she never could have expected since the ABC drama premiered as a midseason series in 2012, so has Washington.

“I’m not the same person I was five or six years ago — but neither is Olivia,” Washington tells PEOPLE. “So, it’s fun to keep calibrating the difference between who she is and who I am.”

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The hit drama is ending after the upcoming seventh season, but Washington, for one, has shown no signs of feeling like the writers room is running out of shocking twists and turns.

“Television can feel restricting to some actors, but I’m lucky because our writers remain inventive and they are incredible, phenomenal risk takers,” says the actress,who wed former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha in 2013 and welcomed their daughter Isabelle in 2014 and son Caleb in 2016. “I get to benefit from always being surprised by Olivia’s huge journey and the fact that she really is having an evolution.”

Washington, 40, refers to her cast mates as her “family” and truly appreciates how accommodating the entire cast and crew — not to mention and fans — were when the actress revealed she was pregnant with Caleb and would not be able to film a full 22-episode sixth season.

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“I learned in my first pregnancy that our fans’ devotion allows them to look past bigger and bigger coats and purses to stay committed to the story. I was less terrified the second time around that this person with a slightly fuller face could still be Olivia Pope,” she says.

“I’m really lucky to work in an environment where families are supported and encouraged,” she continues. “I was able to lean on the writers and directors and cinematographers and other cast members. The show is not about me. It’s about a family of artists and artisans who come together, so I’m grateful to everyone in our scandal family for making it work.”