Why Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington Were Not "Supposed to Be Friends"

Kerry Washington addresses her and Reese Witherspoon's different upbringings.

By Samantha Schnurr Feb 18, 2020 6:58 PMTags
Kerry Washington, VarietyAndrew Eccles for Variety

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are co-stars and co-executive producers, but their lives weren't likely to intertwine. 

The two megawatt actresses are set to star opposite each other in the upcoming Hulu miniseries adaptation of Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, in which they play mothers in the same city. Per Variety, Witherspoon brought the book to her fellow Time's Up member as a potential collaboration. 

However, as is a theme of their project, the stars' origins are far from similar—and their differences aren't lost on them. "In the real world, Reese and I are not supposed to be friends," Washington told Variety. "I grew up in the Bronx a block away from the projects, and she grew up in Nashville, Tennessee."

Those contrasting backgrounds gave the stars much to discuss behind the scenes as they built their venture together. As Variety put it, "Washington and Witherspoon talked in-depth about their vastly different upbringings and their levels of awareness about the inextricable intersections of race and privilege in America."

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On screen, Washington's character and her daughter are immersed in new surroundings, similar to her own experiences as a Bronx native attending a private all-girls school in Manhattan. 

"People walked differently, talked differently, ate differently," Washington recalled to Variety. "It was a totally different universe that I had to learn to traverse."

Watch: Watch Kerry Washington & Jennifer Aniston Fan Girl at Golden Globes

As for how her mother managed living in those differing worlds, "When people asked her where she was from, her answer could be 'New York City,' 'the Bronx,' or 'the South Bronx,'" Washington said. "She could control your perception of her, and her comfort level with these Upper East Side mothers, by how she answered that question."

Now, as Washington and more brings stories to the public informed by lived experiences like these, the gap narrows.  

"Look what we've achieved in just a couple generations. How do we make that ability to achieve standard for every American, not designated to certain people who grew up in certain zip codes? How do we collapse the acceptance of inequality in this country?" she told Variety. "I feel like, to a certain extent, storytelling has the ability to do that, to make us more aware of each other, and care for each other more."

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