“Scandal” star Kerry Washington was paraded through Harvard Square on Thursday as the Hasty Pudding Theatricals 2016 Woman of the Year. Mild weather was good news for fans who lined the streets to get a glimpse of the actress, flanked by student performers in drag. They shouted her name and tried for selfies.
Like her Woman of the Year predecessors, who include Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and last year’s honoree, Amy Poehler, Washington spent the next hour getting roasted by the Harvard Hasty Pudding Theatricals cast before accepting her prize, a small, shiny pudding pot.
The roast was fairly tame; emcees Robert Fitzpatrick and David Sheynberg teased her for owning a Prius, not drinking coffee, and for not winning an Oscar for films such as “Ray” and “The Last King of Scotland.” Washington was a good sport as the Hasty Pudding cast asked her to complete challenges and play games, including “Smash That Thing,” which had her smashing a piñata, a laptop, and popping balloons with pictures of her face.
“That’s, like, against my own Neutrogena contract,” she joked.
The actress also had to take part in a popcorn-eating contest, a nod to her character Olivia Pope. Performers who took party in the performance included Matthew Walker, who played a heckling Monica Lewinsky, and Joshuah Campbell, who played Ray Charles. Washington dueted with Campbell on a rendition of “Rock-a-bye Baby” that had the audience screaming.
“This is the best worst day ever,” she said, after completing some of the more embarrassing tasks.
Washington did prepare an acceptance speech for the occasion. In it, she asked everyone to stand and repeat after her. Her pledge had the group promising to always make room for different points of view, to try to step into someone else’s shoes, to “not claim to understand the lives of people of color because [they] once met Kerry Washington,” and, when they give up on acting to run their father’s hedge fund, that they’ll pay women as much as men.
In a press conference after the roast, Washington said she wrote the pledge for the students because while she wanted to have fun with the event, she also wanted them to reflect.
Reporters at the press conference asked her about her next project, which will have her playing Anita Hill in HBO’s “Confirmation.” She said the film, which airs in April, is a “peek behind the process,” as opposed to a Hill biopic. She was also asked about the controversy surrounding the Oscars and whether she supports the boycott. She said she’s pleased that there’s now a discussion about race and the Academy, but that the problems go way beyond the awards.
“We need for our art to reflect all of us,” she said.
Fans who lined Massachusetts Avenue to get a glimpse of the actress included Cai Thomas, 21, who traveled from Boston College to see the festivities, and Harvard student Simi Tani-Olugbemi, who managed to get the perfect selfie with Washington. (“I said, ‘Kerry’ and she turned around and did a peace sign.”)
Harvard sophomore Rachel Silverstein said she’d never seen Washington on screen, but she wanted to see the Hasty Pudding spectacle after missing Poehler’s visit last year.
Before the parade, Washington was at the Harvard Square restaurant Parsnip, where she had fennel salad, tortellini, and poached pear.
On Feb. 5, the Hasty Pudding players will present their Man of the Year honor to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.