Laugh, cry, and think deeply with talented entertainer Anastasia Washington
Some comedians can really do anything when it comes to entertainment. Anastasia Washington is “the bi-racial boss lady with curves, curls, and sass” who can seemingly take on any challenge thrown at her. Washington is an actress, comedian, writer, director, singer and more. Whether it’s in films, podcasts, or in a one-woman show, Washington entertains & educates every audience she meets.
Washington has created award-winning shorts like “What are you?” and “He Said She Said” as well as series like “Disordered”. Through the pandemic, Washington created the one-woman show “50 Shades of Mixed: Confessions of your Ethnically Ambiguous Best Friend” which has played at the Black Voices Festival and Solo Fest.
We were lucky enough to speak with Washington as she continues work on upcoming stand-up specials, podcasts, and feature films. This is an interview you won’t want to miss.
You’ve worked in movies, television, podcasts, comedy, and more. Tell us about where you got your start in the creativity business.
My family is very creative, we should really have our own show. I started acting and singing at a very young age because I knew that I wanted to entertain. I would sing and dance for everyone and when I was 3 my mother had the good sense and care to support my dream by letting me act and sing professionally. I never looked back.
Is there a medium that you lean toward more often than others?
There’s definitely a genre. I love horror comedies, I think they have the ability to be vehicles for some pretty deep messages and I’m constantly drawn to them. From being in them, making them to watching them. As a performer and creator, I feel it’s my job to have tough discussions but as unpleasant as some of these conversations can be, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be delivered and discussed with love, humor, and creativity.
What is it about comedy that really engages you?
Its ability to start conversations and thought. The quickness that you think on your toes and the way you learn to connect with different people through the art of comedy and joke-telling. It’s truly magic to get people to all laugh at something when they couldn’t be more different. That’s always a goal of mine.
When did you decide to get into podcasting?
So I actually got into podcasting pretty early in the podcasting game. When it was uncool and slightly less attainable to do. Me and my friends had these nerdy conversations that were wild and we were like if people could only hear us. And that’s how my first podcast Awkward Conversations was born. We didn’t know what we were doing so we pitched it to a network. We did the pilot episode on our phones and they put us on air. Again, not knowing what we were doing I was like how can we get to conventions and be panelists and get the word out there. And being naïve and bold, I reached out to cons and such and asked them about the process. We started having panels at conventions our first year just because I asked.
With such a crowded field, what does it take to find an audience for a podcast?
Hustle. And specificity. Some of my podcasts are so niche and you have to take note of where those audience members are. What conventions? What are they looking for that you can get involved in some way? And again just not being afraid to reach out ask questions and try things.
When the whole world was shutting down, you managed to create a one-woman show and a web series. How do you stay energized and motivated to get so much work done?
I can’t sit still. I have a lot of guilty energy, always thinking I can do more. My family are hard workers and none of us had easy paths, so I became very disciplined and focused. I always feel like there’s something I can do, someone I can reach out to or collab with, and honestly, I couldn’t keep watching tv in a onesie. I had to see what I could create under these circumstances.
What was your creative process like while developing 50 Shades of Mixed: Confessions of Your Ethnically Ambiguous Best Friend?
I feel like I was writing this my whole life. It’s the stories that I started to notice people were like no way that happened to you, oh my gosh. I started collecting those stories and with help of my director Juliette Jeffers I was able to focus through the ups and downs of the emotions of examining your life and being it to the stage.
Of course there’s so much creative freedom in doing a solo performance piece, but what are the particular challenges of doing a one-woman show?
I think it was challenging for me to veer from film or stand up and know everything was timed on me. I couldn’t wing it or do it in chunks. It was me staying present in my own story. Also, having no one in the audience and it being streamed, there was the challenge of giving energy to a screen in such isolation.
What role do you think comedy, or just creative work in general, has to play in activism and making the world a better place?
I think it’s everything. I think comedy has the ability to reach so many people. Someone may not like romance movies or scary movies, but all humans like to laugh. It is there that the true thoughts can really start.
How do you balance making work that explores serious issues like police brutality with still keeping people entertained and engaged?
I think honesty, empathy, keeping an open mind, and willingness to explore the darkness, but not live there kind of sums up my personality and my work. We have to discuss things together, and if we don’t abandon each other we can support one another and make change. I hope my work says “let’s discuss this” and “I’m not going anywhere when there’s a bump”, hopefully by the end, we are laughing over a piece of cake.
Is there still a place, if there ever was, for “entertainment for entertainment’s sake”?
Absolutely! I love a good popcorn flick. You have to be able to escape sometimes. Joy and silliness are priceless gifts.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Roy Wood jr. W Kamau Bell, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph, Issa Rae. I grew up watching and listening to Eddie Murphy and all the comedy albums and specials my parents let me watch. Also, Elvira. Dark comedy and music are my jams.
Who are some creatives working today that we need to be paying more attention to?
I mean all the above. But there’s also a lot of my friends that are creating amazing content and I’m so proud of them and hope if you follow me you’ll see their projects and support the heck out of them.
What music gets you inspired?
Oh, I am a huge music fan, I listen to everything. I think it surprises people when they jump in my car and hear comedy then rap then classic rock then musicals. I have a playlist for everything. I have a take on the world mix that is dance hall and dance jams to get me moving. I even have a cry playlist that helps me just have my moment if I need to.
What’s your mission as a creator?
To have strong conversations, to support and collab with amazing people, to help others in their creative endeavors when I can, and most importantly to entertain.
You’ve seen showbiz change quite a bit over your career. What’s been the biggest change for good you’ve seen, and what’s something you’ve yet to see that needs to happen?
I’ve seen so many more collaborations, the world is so much smaller now. We can work with people all over the world on projects and get so many types of stories out there even with no budget. That’s so amazing. I think one thing I want more of is space. I want people to know there’s space for us all and to lift each other up, listen to each other, and help each other. Just because you are in the industry doesn’t mean that we have to drag each other down. There’s space, and if there isn’t let’s make some.
We know that you’ve got a ton of projects in the works from films to stand-up specials to a self-help book. What can you tell us about any of that, and what are you most excited for in the future?
I’m excited to create more comedy content including more self-help with a sense of humor and comedy music. I’m really fired up about Musical Comedy right now and just all the writing I’ve been doing over the pandemic and making something happen with those projects. I’m excited to keep creating and doing in-person for shows and premieres. I can’t wait to share all kinds of projects.