The celebrated actress walked the red carpet at the premiere of her new drama in Los Angeles on Sunday, and she spoke with ET correspondent Matt Cohen about how she's finally getting to tap into her feelings as a mother for one of her roles.
"After playing Olivia Pope for seven seasons, I was having this alternate reality in my real life of becoming a mom and I didn't get to explore any of the feelings around becoming a mom while I was playing Olivia -- because she chose not to be one, which is a choice I totally respect," Washington explained. "But to be able to kind of explore how vulnerable parenting makes you is a privilege for me at this point in my career."
In American Son, Washington plays a woman who is reunited with her estranged husband in a police station in Miami, Florida, while waiting for answers about their missing teenage son. The project -- based off the play of the same name -- touches on the racial tensions and undercurrents in modern American culture, as well as police brutality, stereotyping and the inherent fears of parenthood.
And Washington isn't just starring in the film, she also serves as the executive producer.
"It was so important for me to allow people the privilege of stepping into the lives of this family and being on this roller coaster ride with them," she shared. "Because I think it gives us all an opportunity to reflect on who we are as a society right now, reflect on who we are in our marriages, in our homes with our kids and just take stock of where we're at and how we're doing."
"It's such a special project in that way, so to be able to be a producer and actor in the project just allows me to be extra proud," she added.
For her, being the mother of two children -- whom she shares with husband Nnamdi Asomugha -- made the project even more important.
"I think we're at a moment where police violence is such an extraordinary problem in our culture. And I think there's a danger that these young men and women are becoming statistics," she reflected. "We don't know their names, or we don't think about their humanity, we're just thinking about enormous numbers."
"And when I think about it as a mom, I think about how mothers feel, like that fear of having a black child and not knowing if they're going to be OK in the middle of the night," she continued. "And I just feel like tapping into that horror, parental concern and love, is so universal and helps us to protect these young men and women from being statistics and instead being a full, three dimensional, beautiful human beings that they are."