For the November issue, ESSENCE sits down with Hollywood’s “It Girl” Kerry Washington to talk all things Scandal, which returns to the small screen on Thursday, October 3.

The Emmy-nominated actress—who is styled by the one and only June Ambrose for the cover shoot—wears a stunning gold Rafael Cennamo Couture dress and a killer gold-tipped mani.

Washington, who plays the dynamic Olivia Pope on the oh-so-addictive series Scandal, is amazed at just how popular the show has become over the past two seasons. “People are sitting on their couches and they’re in a relationship with us. When people come up to me, they’re saying, ‘What are you going to do next week?'”

Shonda Rhimes, the brilliant creator behind it all, says Washington “is truly dedicated to making Olivia a real person. She adds layers and depth and a soul to Olivia.” No doubt that’s what keeps Washington’s 8.5 million die-hard fans, or Gladiators, coming back for more every Thursday at 10pm. But we wanted to know how similar Kerry Washington and Olivia Pope really are.

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In our fun must-read feature “Olivia Vs. Kerry,” writer Denene Millner asks the 36-year-old what divides the artist from the muse. Washington says, “Olivia has three [fashion] modes: Work Olivia, Black-Tie Gala Olivia and At Home Olivia… My fashion is more eclectic: There’s Going to Work Kerry, which is gym clothes and Nike kicks. That’s the Bronx girl. There’s also Red Carpet Kerry and Out to Dinner With Friends Kerry.”

On what a Girls’ Night Out for Olivia would be, Washington says “it would involve a lot of wine.” For her, “I drink maybe twice a year. I would be with my three best friends from high school or my girlfriends from the show.”

Click here to go behind the scenes of the cover shoot.

For our full interview with Kerry Washington, in which she discusses why separating her private and professional life is so important to her, her Best-Dressed list sense of style, and her own unique spin on spirituality, pick up the November issue of ESSENCE now.