Marie Claire
March 13, 2015 01:00 PM

Everyone comes to Olivia Pope for advice: Her friends. Her co-workers. The president of the United States. Politicians in trouble, recovering assassins, her own kidnapper while trying to leverage an online bidding war for her freedom.

And even Kerry Washington, the Emmy-nominated actress who plays her.

“I don’t think I consciously say, ‘What would Olivia Pope do?’ but there’s a new thread of belief in my own capacity that I think comes from her,” the Scandal star says in April issue of Marie Claire, on stands March 24. “She makes it happen. She figures it out. She fixes it.”

Interviewed by Girls creator and star Lena Dunham – who will guest on the ABC drama next week – Washington explains how the fictional D.C. crisis manager came to be so iconic.

Naturally, she tips her white hat to Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, the brains behind the network’s “Thank God It’s Thursday” lineup.

“I’m very respectful of Shonda’s vision of who Olivia is, but she has said that she is informed by the choices I make,” she says. “If we were waltzing, she’s definitely leading. And she picked the song, and she probably dressed us, but it is a waltz.”

Kerry Washington
Marie Claire

Washington, 38, also explains why she guards her personal life so fiercely. (She secretly married NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha in 2013 and stays similarly mum about their daughter Isabelle, almost 11 months.)

“Earlier in my career I was much more super-sharey,” she explains. “There were moments when I wanted to process things that were happening to me more privately, and I didn’t have the space to do it, because once you let people in, they’re in and you don’t get to say, ‘Oh, I want this for myself.’ ”

But the proud mom does tell Dunham, 28, her dreams for her baby girl.

“I just want [Isabelle] to know that she’s heard. Really heard, because I feel like that is what we all really want,” she says. “When I think about any of the missteps in my life that I’ve made, all of which I’m grateful for, it’s because I just so wanted to be truly seen and heard for who I am and was afraid I wasn’t or wouldn’t be. I see you, I hear you, I’m with you as you are.”

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