Kerry Washington’s life changed overnight with the success of Scandal. Since the show’s premiere on April 5, 2012, she has become a force to reckon with in Hollywood. However, she hit her low point before Scandal, she says, when she felt a sense of discontentment, both personally and professionally.

    “There was a period before Scandal when I went into the wilderness,” Kerry says. “And for me, what that meant was there was a lot of toxicity in my life: people that I needed to let go of in a personal way, in a business way. And also I felt like I had been living my career kind of on autopilot.”

    Kerry decided it was time to take a hiatus to rediscover herself. She immersed herself in a Broadway play to get back in touch with her artistic roots. “I worked with a director who really challenged me,” she says. “And so going into the wilderness really meant stripping myself of a lot of unnecessary weight in my life. And the ritual of doing theater is—I thought of it as going into a monastery because you do the same thing eight times a week in the same place. You say the same words with the same props, and so it is a ritual that you commit to.”

    The experience was cathartic, Kerry says, even though her career took a hit when some companies started canceling her endorsements. “I experienced a lot of loss professionally. … Not everybody thinks Broadway’s sexy,” she says.

    Kerry’s personal life was also changing, and she “let go of a lot of people and a lot of things.” Allowing herself to be open to all these changes, she says, prepared her for what was waiting for her around the corner, adding, “I think going into the wilderness made me ready, as an artist, as a person, as a businesswoman, to receive Scandal.”

    Here, Kerry opens up to Oprah about how boldly moving toward what she needed, seemingly at the cost of her career, led to her biggest breakthrough yet.