Michele Corriston and Jackie Fields
April 19, 2018 05:00 PM

Kerry Washington will hang up Olivia Pope’s metaphorical white hat Thursday night during the series finale of Scandal.

The soapy political drama is concluding its run after seven jaw-dropping seasons. And though Washington, 41, is ready to move on with her career (she’s inked an overall production deal with ABC and already sold two projects), the last episode will be bitter-sweet.

“I think it’s a process. I think I am in a stage of processing,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “I am not in complete denial, but I don’t think the processing will be complete for a while. I was on a hike today and I ran into Katie Lowes and we hugged for, I don’t know, five minutes straight.”

Kerry Washington
SCANDAL - “Something Borrowed” – The first half of the epic final season ends with shocking revelations and jaw-dropping events that will leave everyone reeling, on “Scandal,” airing THURSDAY, NOV. 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Richard Cartwright) KERRY WASHINGTON

And its costars like Lowes who make saying goodbye so difficult.

“What I will miss most about Scandal is the community, the people, not being able to see my closest friends every single day,” she says.

RELATED VIDEO: The One Surprising Thing Kerry Washington Does After Shooting a ‘Scandal’ Scene

As for what’s next, Washington —  a Neutrogena brand ambassador and creative consultant who recently created her very first palettes for the company —says life post-Scandal looks “exciting.”

“I mean, there’s so much going on,” she explains. “It’s an adventure.”

  • PEOPLE’s special issue All Seven Seasons of Scandal is available now on Amazon and wherever magazines are sold

What about Olivia’s wardrobe of cinched wrap coats, crisp blazers, power suits and stunning dresses?

“There are some things that I am purchasing to keep because they hold special significance,” she says. “But some of it is actually being archived for museum use. So not all of it do I get to keep.”

Scandal concludes Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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