"The thing that's really fun for me about saying goodbye to a character is they kind of live in you," Washington recently told ET's Nischelle Turner. "There will be things that Olivia Pope has given me that always stay with me. She's changed me."
The 41-year-old star said that playing the no-nonsense political crisis manager has "made me believe I can do anything," including being a mom.
"I don't know if I would have had kids at this point in my life if she didn't make me feel like anything is possible," said Washington, who shares two children with husband Nnamdi Asomugha -- 3-year-old daughter Isabelle and 1-year-old son Caleb.
"I feel like she's given me a lot of courage. So I'll keep that courage," Washington shared. "I'm going to have to say bye to the Prada purses but not goodbye to the courage and the courage is more important."
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"There is so much that has happened, a black woman being the lead on a network show, all of that is so important. But equally important is that this is a work environment where we have treated each other with a great deal of love and respect and I really want that to be part of our legacy," she explained. "We have the opportunities to love and respect the people we work with and we all have worked so hard, so being in environments like that is so important."
As part of her effort to make her Scandal family feel the love and support she knows they deserve, Washington surprised the show's cast and crew with a week of thoughtful gifts she referred to as the "Scandal Survival Kit."
"It had work-out classes and sneakers and wine and food and books… it's all the things you haven't had a chance to do while we've been working," Washington said. "But I wanted to end with a mattress."
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For those worked on the show, Washington ended the week of gift with a Tomorrow Sleep mattress.
"We work 16-hour days and sometimes some departments have eight-hour turnarounds, which means they're sleeping five, six hours a night, and I just really feel like having a mattress is something you're supposed to do for yourself but you don't do it enough," she shared. "I wanted to give that to our Scandal family."
After seven seasons, Washington said they "really are a family," which is why she didn't want to just give one big wrap gift at the end of production.
"I felt like I wanted us to feel the joy, the gratitude and joy of what we've been able to experience together," she added.
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The celebrated actress also admitted that, while she's proud of what she's accomplished with the show and the ground that she's broken playing a strong, black, female lead, she feels it's important to "continue to grow that legacy, and that I continue to break new ground and develop new material."
"I'm so excited about projects I have in the works. I have a pilot at ABC that's a comedy about women [called Man Of the House] and I have a show that I'm doing with Reese [Witherspoon]," Washington said, referring to the stars' upcoming limited series Little Fires Everywhere for Hulu, which they will star in and serve as executive producers. "There are new opportunities to break new ground and that is my focus."