Olivia Washington uses her mom's cooking skills to help her settle down

In September 2021, 30-year-old Olivia Washington planned a birthday surprise for her mom, Pauletta Washington. She returned home to Los Angeles from New York, where she lived and developed her acting career. Before the big surprise, she needs to tape an audition for Boots Riley's new Prime Video series I'm a Virgo . Normally, the matriarch would serve as her scene partner, but since that would spoil the surprise, her brother John David stepped in. "He and I used to record ourselves, so this was a good reunion for us," Washington told Buster of her siblings and one-time New York roommates. “He’s seen me at all different stages growing up, so it’s always fun.”

I Am a Virgo marks Washington's first major role, and if its rave reviews are any indication, her star appears to be just beginning to rise. Her character Flora is an aspiring chef and fast-food worker who is born with a disease that causes her to travel across the world at super-fast speeds. Although Flora develops a bond and romance with a 13-foot-tall "alien" Cutie (Jarrell Jerome), she's more than just a love interest. "She is herself, she is the protagonist of her own life," the 32-year-old actor explained. “I like the idea that you can define yourself.”

Pete Lee/Prime Video

Show business was not a given for Washington. She didn't grow up on movie sets or walking red carpets with her mom and dad, Denzel. Instead, the self-described "very shy kid" was either at school or in dance class. But she said being "surrounded" by visionary black artists helped her step out of her comfort zone, citing the likes of Essa Robinson and Vinnie Watson Johnson.

Her aspirations changed in 2013 after she enrolled in and graduated from the Stella Adler Acting Studio at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. That same year, she starred in Lee Daniels' "The Butler." After graduating, she worked as a nanny in New York for several years to support herself, before landing a small role on the TV series " Empire" and recurring roles on "Mr. Robot" and "She's Gotta Have It." (Washington even starred alongside her Oscar-winning father in 2021's The Little Things. )

After all, acting is a "team sport" for her and her "very proud" West Coast family. The New York star calls her three siblings her best friends and often recruits them to help convince their mom to cook some of her signature dishes when Washington needs a taste of home.

Pauletta Washington and Olivia Washington at the "I'm a Virgo" afterparty. Arnold Turner/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"As you get older, everyone gets busier, so we all conspire to have my mom cook," Washington joked, referencing the matriarch's favorite chicken dish. "We're also a YouTube concert family. So those moments of really being together, just watching TV or listening to music, that's how I like to ground myself."

Learn more about Washington in the Bustle Booth questionnaire below.

in a noisy stall

What was your coffee order?

Large iced coffee with almond milk.

What weather locations are saved on your phone?

New York, Los Angeles and Newton, North Carolina.

What is your logo?


Favorite overused movie line?

"Shhh, you whore" from Mean Girls.

What was your favorite cartoon as a child?

Dwarf or chowder.

What’s a movie or TV show that you’re currently obsessed with?

one thousand and One.

Who is your celebrity idol?

Pauletta Washington, Naomi Campbell and Erica Badu.

If you had to be on a reality show, what would you choose?

RuPaul's Drag Race.

Karaoke songs you often listen to?

TLC’s “Creep” or Ginuwine’s “So Anxious.”

What has inspired you recently?

Boots Riley and the cast of "I'm a Virgo."

How would you like people to describe you?

I have a very strong selection of candles.