Kerry Washington

updated 08/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/02/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AGE 27
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."

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