Shonda Rhimes: Scandal's Fierce Fixer Has an Achilles Heel - The President of the United States

Derek, Sam, Jake and the like are dashing and all, but for Olivia Pope, the masterful spin doctor at the heart of Grey’s Anatomy/
Private Practice creator Shonda Rhimes‘ latest creation, ABC’s Scandal, “the one that got away” is no less than the leader of the free world.

“Her Achilles heel is the President of the United States. Honestly,” Rhimes tells TVLine.

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Scandal stars Kerry Washington as the aforementioned Olivia Pope, a super-crafty, legally savvy crisis management expert who used to work her magic for the White House — namely, first-term POTUS Fitzgerald Grant (played by Ghost‘s Tony Goldwyn). Now she lords over Pope & Associates, a sextet of lawyers and investigators who perform damage control on behalf of the D.C. elite — hopefully for the right reasons.

In the premiere episode, airing Thursday at 10/9c, Olivia’s team — played by Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Columbus Short (Studio 60), Darby Stanchfield (NCIS), Guillermo Diaz (Weeds) and Katie Lowes — mobilizes to prove a military hero’s innocence in the grisly murder of a lady friend. But in the midst of juggling that political hot potato, Olivia is summoned by the president’s chief of staff (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Jeff Perry) to head off at the pass a White House intern poised to accuse Grant of you-know-what. And that assignment dredges up difficult memories for the otherwise formidable “fixer.”

“There are many, many things that I think she wishes she could do differently,” Rhimes says of Olivia’s predicament. “[The president] is basically the scandal in her closet.”

As Washington herself tells us, “Olivia is really complicated because … in her professional life, she’s so smart and so sophisticated and so powerful, but her personal life is a bit of a mess. I almost wish she could have her own Olivia Pope to manage her personal life!”

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Escorting viewers into Olivia’s fast-paced, faster-talking world is Lowes’ character, newly hired, bright-eyed lawyer Quinn Perkins — a plucky lass not unlike, say, Meredith Grey. But don’t let the new girl’s green veneer fool you.

“Yes, in a lot of ways she’s an avenue to getting to know anybody, and in a lot of ways she’s a more mysterious character than that, as you will come to find,” Rhimes reveals. “I won’t say anything else, because I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

For Rhimes, Scandal‘s primetime debut in a way brings to fruition her original, years-ago plan to delve into the Washington, D.C. whirlwind via Inside the Box, a pilot about TV news reporters based out of the nation’s capital.

“I’m excited about it! I love the D.C. part if it, I love the characters, the cast is amazing together, and we had so much fun doing [the first season],” Rhimes effuses. “I hope we get to keep doing it.”