Kerry Washington delivers and emotes as the sexpot with a soul in Chris Rock’s new movie I Think I Love My Wife. The film follows the life of a desperately bored married man, Richard Cooper (Chris Rock), who is obsessed with his former girlfriend and official hottie Nikki Tru played by Kerry Washington. Washington opens up to MF about the new film, maintaining her healthy lifestyle and more.
MF: I want to ask you about about your character, Nikki Tru — it's a very complex character. You want the viewer to have sympathy for her in a way, but she is also a seductress and she's likely to ruin this guy's life.
Kerry Washington: It's actually really fun for me to say at the end of the movie, “Did everybody like the movie?” Everybody goes, “Yeah!” I say, “Did everybody hate Nikki?” They go, “Yeah!” And, I go “Yeah!” I just think that's a real departure from me to play a character that people feel conflicted about, so negative about. It's exciting for me as an actor to put myself in that risky position. It's neat; it's a neat step forward in my craft.
One of the reasons why I was really drawn to this character is because she had surprising depth to me on the page. For a seductress, written by two men, two comedians, to be so insightful about herself—they wrote that monologue about being the old girl at the club, but I thought in the wrong hands Nikki could totally become a stereotype. She could completely become the caricature of the other woman and I really want to honor what's here and get behind the psychological impulses, the emotional reality that creates the circumstances of her life. I knew that I could that—I wanted to be the person to bring that to her on the screen.
MF: How did you prepare physically for her because she's in lingerie for half the movie?
KW: [Laughs] She's actually only in lingerie at one point at the end of the film, but she does show a lot of skin. I wanted to work out really hard because I think for me, I feel the stronger, more toned and slender I can feel the less vulnerable I am. Unfortunately, Chris wanted me to put on a little bit of weight for the film. He really wanted the character to be feminine and voluptuous, which was very hard for me, but I feel in a lot of ways it really helped me with the character. There's that moment when she comes in at the beginning and says that she’s smoking because she’s trying to lose weight — she definitely is at that point in her life where her metabolism is changing a little bit. She's not really in control of her life so she wouldn't be perfectly toned, she can’t afford a trainer, the way that Kerry Washington can. There was a really nice vulnerability and sensitivity that came from me emotionally from putting on a little bit of weight for the character — that was really great.
MF: A little bit? Like two pounds?
KW: [Laughs] No, I did!
MF: You looked great!
KW: Thank you. Also, to his credit, I begged him to shoot the underwear scene at the end of the film so that I could start off heavier and then have time to get a little bit more tone by the underwear scene. I have two amazing trainers that I work with, because even when I'm putting on weight or losing weight, I always want do it in a way that's healthy because my body is my instrument and my craft. In New York I work out with David Kirsch and in L.A. Valerie Waters—they are the gurus of my body. I try to put them in charge so that I can be thinking about my acting choices and not my thighs.
MF: Do you turn down roles because you say it's a good role, but it's a bad movie?
KW: I turn down stuff all the time. It's funny because one of the questions I ask myself when I'm deciding to do a film is, will this something I'll want to go to the junket for. You know, is this something I’ll want to spend three days, sitting around chatting about with people, standing behind it, selling it, or will I want to hide under a bed? It's easy to think of the moment or think about the money, but it's really important to go—wait a second, am I going to want to stand behind this a year from now?
MF: Is there a role you wanted, but you didn't get and you look back and say -- I wish I would’ve got that one?
KW: There are roles that I wanted, very badly that I didn't get it, but looking back I never feel like it was the wrong decision.
MF: What’s one of them?
KW: I will not say! [Laughs]
MF: Talk about The Last King of Scotland, you were amazing in that — how was it watching Forest Whitaker transform himself into that role?
Kerry: It was incredible... The Last King of Scotland was a completely transformative experience. As for Forest, I know Forest—I was in Uganda for six or seven weeks and I didn't see my friend, Forest Whitaker there once—he was Idi Amin. There was somebody who kind of blurred the lines between being one foot in Forest, one foot in Idi. He never let himself completely detached from the spirit of Idi Amin the whole time we were there, which was incredibly inspiring and incredibly frightening. I was scared for myself and for him because as an actor I understood where he was going. I was like, how in the world is he going to come back from this. It was intense; you had to be careful about the things you said around him.
MF: You’re engagement recently ended. This movie puts a big question mark on the institution of marriage. Would you really consider getting married, rather than just saying—let's live together and have a great life?
KW: I don't know. I think I'm really young so we’ll see. I know people who are married, who are really happy. I know people who are married, who aren't. I know people who live together who are really happy and I know people who live together, who aren’t. So, I think it's such a personal decision. I think it's really about asking yourself, what do I really want—having the courage to ask yourself, what do I want at this point in my life and then doing it.
I Think I Love My Wife is in theaters nationwide.
Clay Cane is the creator of the urban pop culture site http://www.claycane.net.