Rising star: Kerry Washington, actress

Kerry Washington, actress

New York-born Kerry Washington went to Africa for the first time to play Idi Amin's wife, Kay, in her new film The Last King of Scotland. 'For an African-American there's a mythical duty to feel you've arrived in the Motherland. I was petrified I wouldn't feel that, which would make me a bad black person. But this role made me engage with Africa on an intimate level.'

She and Forest Whittaker, who plays Amin, actually had to 'black up' for their roles. 'We got there and were told we weren't dark enough. So it was in our schedules: 9am to 11am rehearsal, 11-2 sit in sun, 3-4 costume fitting. I got sunburn for the first time in my life.'

Director Kevin McDonald says: 'I didn't need to audition Kerry. I'd seen her in Ray and admired the regality she brought to that part.'

Her first major role was in Save The Last Dance in 2001, with Julia Stiles. 'It was a big break, but everyone in Hollywood thought I was this street sister and I kept getting ghetto offers.'

She's just finished filming I Think I Love My Wife, directed by and starring Chris Rock. 'It's a remake of Eric Rohmer's Love in the Afternoon. Yes, I know, when he told me I was stunned, too, but it's true: Chris Rock is obsessed with Rohmer and he has all his films on DVD.'

· The Last King of Scotland opens on 12 January.

The GuardianTramp

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