Actress Kerry Washington's strong background in theater and academics found the talented and ambitious young starlet, even at the start of her career, setting her sights on producing, screenwriting, and eventually directing -- a goal that certainly seemed reachable given her early success in such films as Lift and Save the Last Dance. The daughter of a real-estate broker, Washington was born in New York City and attended the Spence School of Manhattan before enrolling in George Washington University's theater program. It wasn't long after her 1998 graduation that the aspiring actress made her feature debut in the 2000 drama Our Song, with nominations for the film at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Film Festival serving to increase her exposure among cinephiles, even if the film did go largely unseen by the masses. Of course it would take more than a small independent film to truly set Washington apart from the pack, and many saw her performance in the 2001 romantic drama Save the Last Dance as one of the few redeeming qualities in the otherwise forgettable teen drama. Though her only true experience as a thief resulted in the stealing of an apple from a New York deli when directors DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter encouraged her to engage in a minor bit of thievery in preparation for her role as a shoplifter in the 2001 drama Lift, Washington ultimately proved so convincing and effective in the role that she received a nomination as Best Female Lead at the 2002 Independent Spirit Awards. Of course the all-too-honest actress would return to the deli to pay for the apple following completion of the film. By this point there was little doubt as to Washington's talent, and despite the fact that she would be overshadowed by such big names as Anthony Hopkins and Meg Ryan in such subsequent efforts as Bad Company, The Human Stain, and Against the Ropes, she still managed to make an impression with a series of memorable supporting roles. A substantial role as a lesbian looking to be impregnated by her ex-boyfriend in director Spike Lee's 2004 comedy drama She Hate Me threatened to put an end to the trend of casting Washington almost exclusively in supporting roles; a role as the wife of legendary musician Ray Charles in the same year's Ray truly took her career to the next level. Despite her recent onscreen success, Washington remains true to her stage roots by remaining active in theater and has also begun to branch out by attempting to make a name for herself as a writer and producer as well.
Still, it was on the screen that Washington truly earned her keep, and following roles in Sexual Life, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fantastic Four, Washington took a trip to the courtroom for a supporting role on David E. Kelley's Emmy-winning television comedy Boston Legal. In 2006 Washington would find herself the recipient of a most unusual houseguest when a diminutive thief appeared on her doorstep disguised as an abandoned toddler in the Wayans brothers comedy Little Man. She was in Chris Rock's romantic comedy I Think I Love My Wife, and appeared in Spike Lee's World War II movie Miracle at St. Anna. As the 2010's approached, Washington soon found herself a bonified star, remaining adored and in demand due to performances in high profile features like Django Unchained.