In an emotionally charged new memoir published in September, Kerry Washington opened up about discovering the long-held family secret that her dad, Earl Washington, is not her biological father. In Thicker Than Water, the 46-year-old actress shares the journey to learning that, after struggling with fertility issues, her mom, Valerie Washington, conceived her via an anonymous sperm donation.
Kerry still doesn’t know the identity of her biological father despite expressing a desire to dig deeper into his identity. That desire led to an unexpected but enlightening conversation between Kerry and former Late Late Show host James Corden.
During an appearance on What Now? with Trevor Noah, Kerry revealed that while speaking to the former late-night talk show host, he expressed that he was worried about her seeking out the sperm donor who led to her birth.
“James was like, ‘I need to talk to you. I love you. I’m very concerned about you seeking your donor because you have this beautiful life and, you know, I know your parents. I know your kids. I understand how beautiful your life is, and I don’t want you to give this person so much power that if they aren’t who you want them to be, that you suddenly think your life is a failure or that you are unlovable or unworthy in some way,'” Kerry recalled the British host telling her.
She continued, “And he told me this beautiful story about some friends of his who used a donor. They went to a sperm bank and the rules at this sperm bank are that, the identity [of the donor] is not disclosed, but [they] can write a note to the future child. So this donor wrote a note to this child saying — and it gives me chills every time I think about it — saying, ‘Dear kid, I want you to know that I am not your father. That who I am is just help. There are two people who are your parents. They loved you so much. They wanted to meet you so badly, and all they needed was a little bit of help. So they asked me to give them that help. But they are your parents.'”
Kerry shared that she felt more capable of learning more about her donor after realizing that it was her parents’ love that “manifested” her.
“Their deep desire to know me and meet me and love me is what led them on this journey,” she said. “So I have to love all of who they are and know that they brought me into their world, into this world, with the good and the bad, and that the donor is just, the donor was some help.”
The news of her paternity is just one of many revelations in Kerry’s memoir.
Speaking with ET at a book signing at Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club Gymnasium, in her hometown of Bronx, New York, prior to the memoir’s release, Kerry admitted that she wasn’t always sure she wanted to bare her most profound secrets to the world, but she doesn’t regret it.
“I think every day I sat down to write, I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ because I’ve been so private. But it just felt like if I was gonna tell this story I wanted to tell enough of the story to feel as true as possible,” she confessed. “I was really, I think in a lot of ways, just trying to make sense of my journey, so the parts that I’m sharing are the parts that I think are important to put the puzzle pieces together.”
Reflecting on her tumultuous and emotional journey through childhood and adolescence, the actress mused on how her memoir became about more than providing readers with an intimate look into her public and private worlds; it became a journey of self-realization for the Little Fires Everywhere star.
“I think in a lot of ways, the book is really about me just beginning to understand who I am and in a lot of ways I’m on this kind of adventure of learning who I am,” Kerry told ET. “I still have lots of mysteries ahead of me [and] I think what’s exciting about where I am right now is that I am willing to explore and be in the unknown and have the courage to be asking the big questions and not needing to be able to answer any of them perfectly or in succinct, easy ways.”
She added, “I think a lot of what I’m exploring in the book is this idea of, you know, when we sometimes get put in situations that we’ve never been in before, it’s a real opportunity to discover ourselves. But getting to that place of discovery might start with feeling lost, so I just was living an adventure that I’ve never been on before. I never even imagined being on a rocket ship like Scandal, so that kind of disorientation was thrilling and also it’s sometimes overwhelming.”
For all the bumps she’s encountered on her journey, Kerry said she’s in a place where she doesn’t “necessarily have to have the missing puzzle piece to feel fulfilled.”
Her family is the most important part of her life, which includes her parents, her husband, Nnamdi Asomugha, whom she married in 2013, and her children.
After a past filled with secrecy, Kerry said that she ensures her children are raised in a place of honesty.
“In our home we really value honesty — it’s something we think about a lot. We also don’t want to overwhelm our kids so we try to build a culture in our home where it’s OK to ask questions,” Kerry said when asked how she approaches motherhood. “You can ask questions about anything at any time, there’s no bad questions [and] there’s no wrong questions. But then we kinda meet the kids where they are, right? We talk about things with our 17-year-old very differently than we talk about things with our 6-year-old. But having sort of an environment of truth is important.”