08/02/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
HOMETOWN New York City
TRIPLE PLAY She stars in Spike Lee's new film She Hate Me
, plays Ray Charles's wife in the upcoming biopic Ray
and costars with Brad Pitt
and Angelina Jolie
in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
While backpacking in Guatemala last summer, Kerry Washington overheard locals proclaiming, "Save the lost dogs!" Passionate pet activists? Nope. They were merely confused fans of her breakthrough 2001 film Save the Last Dance
. "It was so random and crazy," says Washington. Soon, however, fame won't be so foreign. Washington headlines in She Hate Me
as a manipulative lesbian, with Ray following this fall and Mr. and Mrs. Smith
next year. "She's a wonderful talent," says Lee. "She stacks up against anybody."
Raised in the Bronx by an education consultant mom and a real estate broker dad, Washington earned a scholarship to Manhattan's tony private school Spence, which counts Gwyneth Paltrow
as an alum. "As privileged as I thought I was because we had a dishwasher. Spence was a different world;" says Washington, who easily adapted. Washington still lives in Manhattan with boyfriend David Moscow, 29, an actor best known as the young version of Tom Hanks in Big
. The couple, who also have an L.A. apartment, share a passion for the Yankees, and their hobbies include talking trash from the stands when they head out of town for away games. "In Boston I thought we might get killed," she says. "But we have to do it—the Yankees are the best."