Kerry Washington learned the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father in 2018

Ahead of the release of her memoir “Thicker Than Water,” Kerry Washington reveals the moment she learned her father wasn’t her biological dad, abuse she kept to herself, and more.

Kerry Washington is in her self-discovery era.  

Ahead of the release of her memoir “Thicker Than Water,” out Tuesday, Sept. 26, the actress revealed more of what readers will learn in both interviews with People magazine and Robin Roberts for ABC News’ “20/20.” 

Kerry Washington, Thicker Than Water, Black fertility, Black families, Black fathers, Black sperm donors, Kirk Franklin, Kirk Franklin's Father's Day,
Kerry Washington attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images)

Among many shocking revelations, including that Washington once contemplated ending her own life, she opens up about her private battles with mental health, sexual abuse, and when she learned Earl Washington was not her biological father. 

“It really turned my world upside down,” she told People

She said she learned the truth about her father in 2018, right around the time she was set to appear on PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.” Upon learning she was going to be on the program, that traces the family history of its notable guests, Washington said her parents realized they had to tell her the truth. 

According to Washington, after running into fertility trouble, her parents used an anonymous sperm donor in order to conceive her and essentially decided never to tell her. Washington said she felt a sense of relief when she finally learned because she always felt like something was missing or going unsaid. 

“When I got this information, I was like, ‘Oh. I now know my story.’ I didn’t know what my story was, but I was playing the supporting character in their story,” she said. 

Washington, who also sheds light on her struggles with anxiety, body image, and eating disorders in her memoir, added, “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 credits learning the truth of her paternity with kicking off a process of self-discovery that moved her to write “Thicker Than Water.” 

“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.

Washington told Roberts that she’s in the process of looking for her biological father, and that while her dad who raised her isn’t “thrilled,” he’s “supportive.” 

As Washington’s story hits shelves this week, the story of another famous face dealing with a similar circumstance is making the rounds. Kirk Franklin’s “Father’s Day,” a project that includes a documentary out now and an upcoming album out Oct. 6, details Franklin meeting his biological father for the first time as he was finishing the new album. In the documentary, viewers get a rare intimate glimpse into Franklin’s life as he grapples with both starting a relationship with his own father and repairing his relationship with his own son. 

After being introduced to a man when he was a child and told that he was his father, Franklin believed that. It wasn’t until he learned of a man who dated his mother around the time of his birth (and conducted a DNA test that came back as a match) that Franklin realized his father was not the man he’d spent his life thinking was his parent. Franklin’s biological father had actually been less than 10 miles away from him his entire childhood.

“To live over half a century with somebody who lived in the same city as you…” Franklin told People. “I suffered so much as a young man without guidance. I struggled with love, intimacy, faith, identity. And to know that the answer was less than 10 minutes away.”

Franklin said the logline for his project is, “What I missed, where I am, and what has always been.'” 

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. TheGrio’s Black Podcast Network is free too. Download theGrio mobile apps today! Listen to ‘Writing Black’ with Maiysha Kai.