First Look: Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in HBO’s ‘Confirmation’

Confirmation (2015) – Kerry Washington – 01
Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in 'Confirmation' (2015)

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in ‘Confirmation’ (2015)

HBO gave us all a first look at Kerry Washington as Anita Hill on the set of the forthcoming TV film Confirmation via Twitter on Tuesday morning.

The Scandal actress is starring in and executive producing the movie about the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings (at which Hill testified). Here’s general summary of the controversy that ensued below:

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, by then a federal Circuit Judge, to succeed retiring Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. Senate hearings on his confirmation were initially completed with Thomas’ good character being presented as a primary qualification for the high court because he had only been a judge for slightly more than one year. There had been little organized opposition to Thomas’ nomination, and his confirmation seemed assured until a report of a private interview of Hill by the FBI was leaked to the press. The hearings were then reopened, and Hill was called to publicly testify. Hill said in the October 1991 televised hearings that Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor at the Department of Education and the EEOC. When questioned on why she followed Thomas to the second job after he had already allegedly harassed her, she said she had wanted to work in the civil rights field, she had no alternative job, “and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures … had ended.”

According to Hill, during her two years of employment as Thomas’s assistant, Thomas had asked her out socially many times, and after she refused, he used work situations to discuss sexual subjects. “He spoke about…such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes” she said, adding that on several occasions Thomas graphically described “his own sexual prowess” and the details of his anatomy. Hill also recounted an instance in which Thomas examined a can of Coke on his desk and asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”

Four female witnesses waited in the wings to reportedly support Hill’s credibility, but they were not called, due to what the Los Angeles Times described as a private, compromise deal between “aggressive, gloves-off” Republicans and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Democrat Joe Biden. According to Time magazine, one of the witnesses, Angela Wright, may not have been considered credible on the issue of sexual harassment because she had been fired from the EEOC by Thomas.

Hill agreed to take a polygraph test. The results supported the veracity of her statements; Thomas declined the test. He made a vehement and complete denial, saying that he was being subjected to a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks” by white liberals who were seeking to block a black conservative from taking a seat on the Supreme Court. After extensive debate, the United States Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52–48; the narrowest margin since the 19th century.

Hill’s experience during the Clarence Thomas scandal was also the subject of Freida Lee Mock‘s 2013 documentary film, Anita (available ow on Netflix).

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, whose acclaimed indie flick DOPE hits theaters this weekend, Confirmation‘s script was written by Oscar nominee Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), who is also executive producing.

Playing Thomas is Wendell Pierce, who will be joined by Jennifer Hudson (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete) as Wright, Cobie Smulders (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Erika Christensen (Parenthood), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Grace Gummer (American Horror Story), Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine) as Biden, Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire) as Charles Ogletree, Dylan Baker (The Good Wife) and Alison Wright (The Americans).

Confirmation is being produced by Groundswell Productions in association with ABC Signature Studios, the boutique arm of ABC Studios.