In 2002 she played Chris Rock's love interest in the spy thriller Bad Company, a film that represented a turning point for her, in that it was the first time in her career that she had made enough money annually to qualify for health insurance under SAG. Smith (2005), Little Man (2006), I Think I Love My Wife (2007), and as a wife of 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the UK historical drama The Last King of Scotland (2006).
She also appeared in Tyler Perry's 2010 film For Colored Girls.
Washington hosted Saturday Night Live on November 2, 2013, where she impersonated Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey in a cold opening sketch that satirized criticism of Saturday Night Live for not having had any black female cast members for many years.
Since April 2012, Washington has starred in the ABC drama series Scandal, created by Shonda Rimes, as Olivia Pope, a crisis manager who runs her own crisis management firm called Pope & Associates in Washington, D. In this position, she works for high-profile figures, most notably the President of the United States, who is also her lover.
Since 2012, Washington has gained wide public recognition for starring in the ABC drama Scandal, a Shonda Rhimes series in which she plays Olivia Pope, a crisis management expert to politicians and power brokers in Washington DC.
For her role, she has been nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series.
Washington is also known for her roles as Della Bea Robinson, in the film Ray (2004), as Kay in The Last King of Scotland (2006), as Alicia Masters in the live-action Fantastic Four films of 20, and as Broomhilda von Schaft in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012).She has also starred in the independent films Our Song (2000), The Dead Girl (2006), Mother and Child (2009) and Night Catches Us (2010).In 2016, she portrayed Anita Hill in the HBO television film Confirmation and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie.In April 2014, Time magazine included Washington in its annual "Time 100" list.Her father's family is of African American origin, having migrated from South Carolina to Brooklyn.Her mother's family is from Manhattan, and Washington has said that her mother is from a "mixed-race background but from Jamaica, so she is partly English and Scottish and Native American, but also descended from African slaves in the Caribbean." She went on to appear in several movies, including Save the Last Dance (2001) and The Human Stain (2003).