BY DONNA FREYDKIN
There's a Pope in the house.
And we're not talking about the Pontiff from Rome, whose visit mesmerized America last week.
The second episode of ABC's Scandal airs Thursday, and we know that master image minder Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has hooked up with President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), who's given his scheming wife and newly-elected senator (Bellamy Young) the boot. Now, Olivia is officially the lady-friend of the leader of the free world.
"Lady-friend! I like that. Against our will, because we were going to take it easy and be private for a bit longer but someone leaked those pics," says Washington. "We wanted to have a little bit more time before we told people about it. So my plan goes out the window."
There's notorious secrecy surrounding the show, which is no accident -- such is the dictate that Washington only flies with scripts in her carry-on bags, lest they get lost.
"We have numbered scripts. They're very hard to get. I never put my script into my checked luggage. None of us read our scripts in the gym anymore because someone could be peeking over your shoulder. Sometimes I work it on the plane but I turn it to face the window so no one can see," says Washington.
Washington is married to former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha and has one daughter, Isabelle, almost 2. To date, the child has been kept out of the spotlight, something that is of paramount importance to her ultra-protective mother. Like any parent, she figures things out as she goes along, much the same as her boss, ultra-powerful show runner Shonda Rhimes. Please, don't ask Washington about juggling work and family.
"Shonda has shamed a number of people for asking that question. Part of it is asking for help. Literally, it's asking, 'What did you do about sleep training? Is that hotel kid-friendly?' And pick up really tangible tips, like literally, what time do you fly?" she says.
Washington remains outspoken on behalf of women. Her biggest initiative to date: the Allstate Purple Purse program, which focuses on financial abuse, teaching women to manage their finances, from balancing their check books to cleaning up their credit.
"It's a tangible way to make a difference. You're giving someone the tools to walk away," says Washington. "Coming from a family of really strong women and going to an all-girls school and being a girl who likes to hang out with other girls — some women are not girl's girls and some are. As someone who believes in the value and necessity of protecting women, it's always been on my mind."
To that end, Washington has launched a purse that costs $350, and part of the proceeds benefit the program. "I was very involved. Last year I designed it by myself and this year it was a collaborative effort with Dee Ocleppo. We picked the metals and size together," says Washington. "I worked really hard with her to pick a textile that was affordable, keeping it young."
In her copious amounts of spare time — she jokes that she spends hours lounging in a hot tub — Washington has also started producing and she's wrapped Confirmation for HBO, playing Anita Hill in the notorious Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
"Hair in 1991 was its own beautiful beast," says Washington. "She was very fashion-forward."