Kerry Washington got the shock of her life—and maybe some relief—when she found out the person she knew as her dad, Earl Washington, wasn’t her biological father.
“It really turned my world upside down,” Washington told PEOPLE in their upcoming issue.
Washington found out after telling her parents about her intention to appear on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s PBS series Finding Your Roots. It’s a show where DNA testing is used to learn information about a well-known subject’s family tree.
Gates advised the actress’ parents to tell her the secret ahead of filming after they reached out to him, so they did so in 2018.
“When I got this information, I was like, ‘Oh. I now know my story,'” said the 46-year old. She also remembered feeling relieved after hearing the news as she had an inkling that her parents were keeping something from her. “I didn’t know what my story was, but I was playing the supporting character in their story,” she added.
Kerry goes into detail about this turning point in her life in her new memoir Thicker Than Water, set to release on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
“I think that dissonance of like, ‘Somebody is not telling me something about my body,’ made me feel like there was something in my body I had to fix,” she said in relation to her struggles with anxiety, self-esteem issues, and a past eating disorder. After hearing the truth about her father, the actress felt there was a nexus between that revelation and her experiences.
“This is really kind of me working to understand my life up until now, given this new information that I have that, in many ways, felt like sort of the missing puzzle piece,” she said.
“My parents were not thrilled about me writing this,” she shared of her memoir, but they warmed up to the idea with time. “This really is a book about me. I now get to step into being the most important person in my life.”
After finding out the truth, the award-winning actress asked her parents questions while also showing empathy for the struggles that led to her having a different biological father. After battling with fertility issues, the Washingtons decided to use an anonymous sperm donor to conceive Kerry and had no intention of telling her before she decided to do Finding Your Roots.
“I really started to have so much more love and compassion and understanding for my parents,” the Emmy-nominated actress continued.
“Taking this deep dive into our family history made me put myself in their shoes and think about the things that they’ve had to navigate and what they’ve been through and what they’ve sacrificed. And it really made me feel closer to them,” she said.
Although she has been in the limelight for years now, the former Scandal star managed to keep her private life under wraps, making this memoir a rare opportunity to get some insight into the star. After finding out the truth about her father, she felt compelled to tell her story.
“Writing a memoir is, by far, the most deeply personal project I have ever taken on,” she told PEOPLE back in January. “I hope that readers will receive it with open hearts and I pray that it offers new insights and perspectives, and invites people into deeper compassion — for themselves and others.”