“In some ways, this moment right now is a climax for me,” Washington told students during the Q&A portion of her visit. “Being able to sit here with you guys and tell you something that nobody told me — that there was a place for me in this business — is a real gift for me, and it’s an honor.”
Throughout the Q&A, students inquired about how to overcome the various challenges that come with being an actor, and in Washington’s case, what it’s like being a woman of color navigating the entertainment industry. Washington championed the importance of having a strong support system, along with prioritizing one’s own mental and emotional health during stressful periods.
Washington is one of the founding members of the school’s advisory board, which also includes George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria and numerous film and television executives. Roybal was founded in 2021 alongside Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency’s Bryan Lourd in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest public school system. The magnet, overseen by principal Blanca Cruz, provides underrepresented students the resources and mentorship needed to pursue careers in the entertainment industry.
On getting involved with Roybal, Washington told Variety that it started with an email from Lourd and Clooney, which she said are “the kinds of emails that you answer quickly.”
“I really wanted to have the opportunity to be a part of this really important vision and mission, and I also felt a personal connection to the journey that these kids were endeavoring on as somebody who is from the Bronx who’s from a marginalized community,” Washington said. “As a woman of color who has been able to build a career in this industry, I felt like I could be a mirror for a lot of them and and offer some real empathetic understanding about what they’re going through and what they might need.”
Outside of her appearance at the school on Wednesday, Washington outlined more of her responsibilities that come with being on the school’s advisory board, which has included staffing the school, giving feedback on curriculum and setting up film and television-related extracurricular activities for students. Washington said her team recently organized a screening at Netflix for her new film “The School for Good and Evil,” and invited director Paul Feig to speak with the students.
The high school magnet recently received substantial financial backing from many major Hollywood players including Disney, Amazon Studios, Fox Corp. and Warner Bros. Discovery, in addition to continuing partners History Channel/A+E Networks, Netflix and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The group committed more than $4 million in funding for the school, which will be used to fund resources and mentorship for its students. Despite the crucial support Roybal receives from its industry heavyweights, Washington hopes her appearance and continued involvement with the magnet can keep students engaged and further interested in pursuing careers in film and television.
“Quite frankly, if my appeal today keeps them enrolled, keeps them interested, keeps them enthusiastic and helps them spread the word to other friends to stay here — this is not about what I can offer them, it’s really about what this entire school has to offer,” Washington said. “I’m here to make sure that they continue to come here, because I know how special this is and how much this school has the potential to unlock their futures, but also how much their talent has the potential to transform our industry for the better.”