©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection
Kerry Washington explains in her new memoir “Thicker Than Water” that she resolutely refused to play the “white girl’s best friend” after appearing in “Against the Ropes,” the 2004 boxing drama starring Meg Ryan and Omar Epps. had played along. In the film, Ryan played Jackie Kallen, the first woman to achieve success as a boxing manager. Washington played Jackie’s best friend, a receptionist named Renee.
“I played in it [Meg Ryan’s] “Colleague and confidante—that became a new niche for me, the white girl’s best friend,” writes Washington (via Entertainment Weekly).
As Washington recalls, “Against the Ropes” was her third consecutive project in which she played the best friend of the white lead actress. First she filmed 2001’s Save the Last Dance, in which she was Julie Styles’ best friend, then she filmed the scrapped pilot for the 2004 Fox dramedy series Wonderfalls, in which she was Caroline Dhavernas’ best friend ‘ was the main character. Ultimately, Tracie Thoms took over the role. Washington made sure that “Against the Ropes” would be the last, largely because she was such a Meg Ryan fan that she reached her personal peak as the “white girl’s best friend.”
“’Harry and Sally’ is still one of my top three films of all time. “So after playing Meg Ryan’s best friend, playing the role against anyone else would have been a trivial matter,” writes Washington, adding, “It’s not that I wanted to be the star of the movie; I wanted my characters to have their own story. I didn’t want to be a companion to a white woman’s journey.”
Washington’s career continued with supporting roles, but in her opinion these were far more sophisticated than simply supporting her white co-star. These roles included Della Bea Robinson opposite Jamie Foxx in Ray and Kay Amin opposite Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. Both men went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
Washington’s memoir, Thicker Than Water, is available to purchase now.