New HBO film Confirmation recalls how, 25 years ago, sexual harassment charges interfered with Judge Clarence Thomas' ascent to the United States Supreme Court. Kerry Washington, who plays Anita Hill, the attorney who accused Thomas, and is also the executive producer of the film, talks politics.
Are you more or less cynical about Washington (the city) after Scandal (the political television series starring Kerry Washington) and now this film? "I'm really inspired by the difference that a person can make in Washington and the kind of cultural shift that happened after the events that take place in our film. It's really inspiring to think about how much changed, how we were all transformed by these events in terms of our language changing around sexual harassment, around victims' rights, around how we think about the workplace, how we think about women, how we think about race, how we think about power. I'm a person who tends to be more inspired than cynical."
How did the actual events strike you at the time? "We all talked about how it was such an important moment in our country. It was one of the first times that we all stood still and began to partake in what we now think of as a 24-hour news cycle. You know, we never think twice about it now. But we didn't engage in public affairs in that way in the early '90s, in '91. So these events really transformed the way we even consume news.
"I was 14 when it was happening but … my mother was an academic who had very passionate feelings about it as a woman of colour; my dad had very passionate feelings about it as a black man. I was immersed in how complicated and how complex the issues were from a very young age, and it always stuck with me how passionate both of my parents were and how differently they looked at the situation. That was important for all of us in the making of this film - that we really courageously stick to the complexity of the situation and not try to one-note any character or any one moment of this process."
How do you feel about the outcome? "One of the most important things that happened as a result of these hearings was that it changed not just the national, but the global conversation, and that is an outcome that we all felt was really important, and we wanted to make sure that that conversation continues, because some of those issues have evolved enormously. We all had to sit through a sexual harassment orientation course before we started filming, which was a bit surreal."
Confirmation will be screened on HBO on Sunday, April 17, at 8am, and again at 9pm.