Kerry Washington may have taken telelvision by storm, playing crisis manager Olivia Pope on ABC's "Scandal," but she joked today that she is still haunted by being cast as a frog in a college musical.
"It was not my lifetime dream role to play a frog. In fact, the thought of it terrified me," Washington said in a commencement speech today at her alma mater, George Washington University.
It was Washington's junior year when she was cast as a frog in the musical "Croak, or The Last Frog," depicting the journey of Cassandra, the last frog on earth.
As a presidential scholar for the arts, Washington said, she was required to audition for every production at the school in order to keep her scholarship. After being cast in the show, Washington said she took the challenge head-on and spent hours watching frogs, reading about frogs and holding frogs.
"I crossed the threshold into unknown territory," she said with a laugh, adding that of all the roles she has played as an actress, it was still her father's favorite.
The "Scandal" star graduated from George Washington University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts and was named an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at today's commencement ceremony.
Washington, whose character on "Scandal," Olivia Pope, is having a steamy affair with the president, joked that graduates were probably thinking they were celebrating their achievements "with that lady who is having an affair with the president on that television show."
"In real life, I'm just an actor. I play pretend. I tell stories," Washington said. "So bear with me because that is what I am going to do."
During her four years at George Washington University, Washington designed her own interdisciplinary major, taking acting classes, but also focusing on anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
She recalled "a lot of sleepless nights" and "more than a few drinks" at a bar near campus during her college years.
Since her graduation, Washington has catapulted onto Hollywood's A-list and has scooped up awards for her performances on "Scandal" and in the movies "Ray" and "Django Unchained."
In 2009, she was named to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and last year delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Washington, who has carved out a unique path in Hollywood, urged graduates to do the same, wherever their dreams lead them.
"Your life is your story and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential," she said.
And for those students with stories that would translate onto the big screen, Washington joked she would be calling to option the rights, because "I am so Hollywood now."