Kerry Washington on Scandal's Dark Twist: I Was Like, 'Ohh, That's the Kind of Show We're Doing!'

Talk about a crisis to manage.

ABC’s Scandal (Thursdays, 10/9c) started as what seemed to be a somewhat rote yet juicy Shonda Rhimes drama about a fixer and her elite team of helpers. Sure, it had the element of a White House aide alleging an affair with the president, but that read like an easy-access riff on the Lewinsky scandal, just the sort of noisy wrinkle to lure lookie-loos to a new series.

Amanda Tanner, however, ended up with bigger problems than a stained dress.

In the wake of the dark turn that capped last week’s episode of the ABC freshman, TVLine hopped on the phone with series front woman Kerry Washington — on the eve of her visit to the White House Correspondents Dinner, natch — to talk about the truly scandalous saga ahead, how the Tanner case will affect Olivia Pope’s “bond” with POTUS and the rather polarizing nature of that very romance.

TVLINE | Would you agree that with last week’s episode and the Amanda Tanner abduction, the show hit a turning point?
I think so. It’s funny, I was talking with Katie Lowes (who plays Quinn) the other night and we were remembering that’s how we felt when we read it – like, “Ohhh… that’s the kind of show we’re doing.” [Laughs] Week after week we’d get a script and go, “Oh… my… goodness. This is unbelievable.” And the next week we’d go, “Last week was nothing – this is unbelievable.” The stakes keep getting higher and higher.

TVLINE | That’s what I’ve been telling people, that this is where the show – and I mean this in the most complimentary way – starts getting a bit bananas. This is where the storyline really deviates from the whole Monica Lewinsky thing.
Right, right…. Which I think is great because this is not a ripped-from-the-headlines show. It’s rooted in the experience and realities and culture of crisis management, but it’s not any one story from Judy Smith [the real-life fixer who inspired Scandal].

TVLINE | Did Shonda map out for you, the series lead, where the show would be going?
Nooooo! Not at all! Not at all. In fact, at some points it got really sort of difficult for somebody like Tony [Goldwyn], who would say to her, “Well, how does [Fitz] feel? What is actually going on?” Sometimes we would get information out of Shonda, other times she would just shrug her shoulders, and sometimes she would tell different actors different things. [Laughs] Once, Liza [Weil, who plays Amanda] and I were each being whispered to by Shonda, and in a very Scandal-the-TV-show kind of way, we sat down and said to each other, “OK, let’s put it out on the table. What do you know?”And we shared.

TVLINE | The new promos feature Olivia, fearing the worst, saying to Fitz, “Murder is murder.” As you played it, do you feel she really believes that he or his team is behind what happened?
I think a key part of that conversation comes later on, when she makes a reference to how “if you take a dog [meaning Cyrus] off its leash, it’s still your fault.” I’m not sure in that moment that she’s wrapped her head around the idea that Fitz himself could have done that, but I think she knows him well enough to know that sometimes he becomes part of a machine that’s operating for his success — because she’s been a part of that machine.

TVLINE | One thing I enjoyed about this next episode is how the abduction sets the table for us to learn more about Huck (played by Guillermo Diaz).
Isn’t that the best? Part of what’s so fun about the way this season is structured is we learn about Olivia’s skeletons at the end of the pilot, and you go, “Holy crap. This person is not who I thought they were.” She’s crying in a coat closet, she had an inappropriate relationship with the president… But as the season goes on, you realize you can make that statement for every single person that works at Pope & Associates. [Last week we learned about] Darby being in an abusive marriage, and the deep sisterhood between these two women…. And we get more about Huck in this one.

TVLINE | Guillermo has some scenes where I was like, “Wait, who exactly did Olivia hire here?” Because either Huck is the greatest actor in the world or he’s been through some twisted stuff.
Yeah. And I would say both!

TVLINE | Do you think that the season’s penultimate episode (airing May 10), which is told mostly in flashback and reveals the origin of Olivia and Fitz’s affair, might convert any out there who are still on the fence about that relationship?
It’s interesting to put it that way. Lyn Paolo, our brilliant costume designer with whom I basically share a brain, always got the script first, because she needed more prep time, and one day she came into the hair-and-makeup trailer and said, “I read [Episode] 6” — and all of the behavior in the trailer stopped. Like, “What’s in it?!” She said, “I can’t tell you too much, but I will say there is a line where Fitz says to Olivia, ‘[SPOILER].'” And when I tell you that all mayhem broke out in the trailer…. Half of us were so excited [by it], and the other half, well, my stylist literally threw her brush across the trailer…. Like, with total disgust.

TVLINE | Well, the show kind of wants us to root for Olivia and Fitz, but in doing so you’re basically condoning extramarital affairs. So we kind of need this piece of information from years ago to know what were the circumstances — not that anyone is ever pardoned, no pun intended, from such behavior.
It’s really fun to be around these divergent feelings about Olivia and Fitz. I would say that about half of the people who were really, really against the relationship moved [after watching Episode 6], but the other half is like, “I don’t care how it started, no good can come from this.” They maybe had a little bit more compassion, but…. [Laughs]

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. jenna says:

    I’m really excited for episode 6!

  2. echuckler says:

    It’s a fun show. It kind of reminds me of “Murder One,” in a very good way.

  3. Jen says:

    ack!!! I’ve been really surprised by how much I (and how quickly I’ve come to) love this show. Thursday nights cannot come fast enough!

  4. wordsmith says:

    I’m definitely interested to learn more about the other associates and their skeletons. I like that Huck is this sort of superspy badass. The revelation that Quinn is apparently living under a false identity was also particularly intriguing.

    • Russ says:

      I know I’m very excited to find out more about Huck and I want to know about Quinn or whoever she was before.

  5. Bianca says:

    Oh Guillermo Diaz was on Mercy :) That’s why he’s so familiar..

  6. AJ says:

    For some reason I thought the girl was murdered. Why else inject her between her toes? I thought they killed her in a way that is not that likely to be uncovered if her body was found and then made it look like she just took off. Guess an abduction is as interesting but murder was better. :(

    • DM says:

      I also thought she was murdered based on the between-the-toes injection. It makes no sense to abduct her. If the slimy president (or his wife) wants to clean up his messes, then the aide needs to be gone for good — not abducted!

      And how do we know that the president is slimy? Because the writers suddenly made him a Republican. And how do we know this show is fictional? Because this same slimy Republican president has an openly gay (and in a pseudo-marriage) chief-of-staff.

  7. tp says:

    Thursday, 10 pm can’t come fast enough.

  8. this show is very good, but i am still not so convince that if this show is successful enough then Private Practice will go, because ABC and the crew who works with Scandal and PP and Shondra herself had said it will not affect PP but i go to tvline and tvguide and other website and they say that PP will be back for a 13 episode final season depending on how successful both Scandal & GCB are,so I don’t want to love this show is much because I’ll PP over this show anyday.

  9. Anna says:

    Love this show… I didn’t think I would especially since I’m a pp fan and this show took it’s time slot but I really really like scandal and have been so pleasantly surprised. I also really like Stephen and Abby together. I don’t know why but I do

  10. JJ says:

    I am absolutely loving this show.

  11. momo says:

    loving this show, and yeah i know it’s wrong but i like Fitz and Olivia together lol

    • DM says:

      President Fitz is a slimeball! Why would you want them together?

      I hate how Pope is supposed this no-nonsense warrior but she absolutely melts around Fitz. C’mon — get a spine! Have some self-respect! The dude is a SLIMEBALL! Plus the writers made him a Republican! On TV, Republican is code for simple doofus or evil slimeball!

  12. SallyinChicago says:

    I love Scandal, but Kerry makes these faces that are annoying.

    • My gosh, I wish my husband could read that. He shares the exact same sentiment. I had to force him to watch the show for the story because he couldn’t get past her face or, as he puts it, “What’s wrong with her mouth?!” Geez!

      • gem says:

        Something is wrong with ur husband. Its called lips that ppl pay enough to inject those disgusting things into to get some of what Kerry Washington has. Don’t hate appreciate bc it really sounds ignorant!

    • Lou says:

      I totally agree with you Sally; they way she expresses every single word; you can’t help but focus on her mouth and it definitely rubs me the wrong way. I actually hate it but I like the stories.

    • MG says:

      I know, I love the show too, but her lips are irritating….is she or the director not aware of that…WTF

  13. greysfan says:

    I thought i wouldn’t like this show but it has me hooked. Kerry Washington deserves an Emmy for her performance. Its flawless. Beats anyone else on the screen this year. Looking forward to tonight.

  14. itsthephils22 says:

    I like how un-Shonda this Shonda show is. I need a Rhimes respite, and ironically, here it is. (Once the originals on Grey’s are all in ship-shape, i will gladly bid adieu to Seattle Grace.) Big ups to Scandal, for sure. I’m really lovin it. Does Kerry Washington age?? My my. if she’s not one of the most beautiful women on the planet, than I dunno who is!

  15. the girl says:

    This is the second time ABC has done this to me, move a show I love out of its time slot and replace it with another show that I have vowed to hate but end up LOVING. Damn you Happy Endings, and damn you Scandal. This show is so delicious. I cannot wait for tonight.

    PS. ABC if you cancel Cougar Town OR Private Practice the karma gods will get you.

  16. zakspeak says:

    I love this show, too. Like I hate waiting for the commercials to be over. So I dvr it so I can skip through them.

    Olivia reminds me of a GA season 1 Bailey. Love her confidence and heart. IMHO PP and GA are played out so there’s plenty of room for Scandal.

  17. Jared says:

    Obsessed with Scandal..cant wait til tonight when it airs!..

  18. Cline says:

    I am absolutely hooked on this show; it gets better every week. SPOILERS: And, to those that wrote that they thought Amanda was murdered, she was! She was killed by the guy Huck tortured to tell him where the body was. However, because she was dumped in the water (where the body would become bloated and a needle mark would probably not be seen, amongst other problems). Since she was found off a bridge a month after the suicide attempt, the ME and police make the leap that it was suicide. Of course, we know that they’re nowhere near the end of this storyline (since someone’s blackmailing Fitz), I can’t wait to see how the truth gets revealed!

  19. Laurie says:

    Scandal is an incredible and fast pace show! Kerry is outstanding! Love her and the show!

  20. L. says:

    Shonda you have ruined Scandal where everyone now is a villain. It was not like that for most seasons, and now they are all dark and ugly people with so much illegal and misery that they bring each other. Olivia was a great lady, most of the character were a bit off the wall, but not a down right mean and horrible and nuts to boot. Why would you go and make everyone a villain, too hard to watch now. And so many were watching for years, not any more until somehow you redeem this cast of mean, disgusting, murders and villians.
    Too bad, I thought your show was different from the many poor shows on T.V. and really looked forward to fine acting and intelligent story lines. You blow it big time and many are so disappointed.