Shonda Rhimes Weighs In on Scandal Season 1, the Finale's Killer Reveal and Fitz's Future

Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of ABC’s Scandal.

ABC’s Scandal wrapped up its frothy freshman run on Thursday night by having Vice President Langston’s chief of staff, Billy Chambers, aggressively accelerate his twisted plan to torpedo President Grant’s first term by commandeering a press briefing to posit that Fitz had a fling with ill-fated former White House intern Amanda Tanner. Meanwhile, Olivia Pope & Associates swung into action to clean up the scene of journalist Gideon Wallace’s murder, lest Quinn — I’m sorry, “Quinn” — enter the system and have her actual super-secret identity be discovered.

By hour’s end, Cyrus and Liv teamed up to exact a fine piece of damage control — with more than a little help from First Lady Mellie — though it may have come at the price of Olivia ever getting quality one-on-one time with POTUS ever again.

TVLine spoke with series creator Shonda Rhimes earlier this week to reflect on the season gone by, her plan for Season 2, and answer a few burning questions.

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TVLINE | I was actually looking back at my notes from the January press tour, and you did describe Scandal as being “very adult,” a show that would snowball to a point that we’d be “catching our breath.” Still, were you surprised to see people surprised by what it evolved into over the course of the season?
It’s always the same way – everybody always thinks you are whatever you just wrote. It’s interesting to me that no matter what I write people are like, “It’s going to be just like Grey’s Anatomy!” Which I completely understand, because that’s what you’re identified with. So I wasn’t surprised that people were surprised, because it doesn’t matter what you tell them [ahead of time]. People have an expectation and I totally accept that. I felt like we were doing something outside the box, compared to what the audience thinks that I do.

TVLINE | Have you heard recently from Judy Smith (the White House alum/crisis management pro on whom Olivia is partially based)? Is she getting grilled by her friends, “You were holding out on us! Did these things happen?!”
Judy holds everything so close to the vest, even with us, that part of what we ended up doing was make up scenarios and then going, “How would you solve that problem?” Because she was never going to tell us any of her actual client scenarios, so we sort of went by what we read in the papers, what we could find. She provided us with some interesting twists and turns and suggestions. She’s very good at what she does.

TVLINE | [ABC president] Paul Lee told me he gave you 13 episodes for Season 2 — and that you might be entirely content with that, because of the pacing you had in this first season.
I enjoyed having seven episodes. We took it as sort of a gift because it meant that we could tell story in a way that you can’t really tell story on network television.

TVLINE | Right? I mean this thing burned hot these last five weeks.
Yeah, and that was exciting for us. I wrote the pilot thinking, “Oh, we’re going to have to stretch this thing over 22 episodes, and that’s going to be hard,” and it was great to not have to stretch it over anything. It was like we were doing a little cable show. I constantly am saying, “Don’t we just want to do 13 episodes of everything?” But nobody listens to me. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Do you have any idea how much time will elapse on screen between seasons?
I don’t. I try not to let myself think about what we’re going to do next season, because I don’t want to get too excited about it and then not get the show picked up. We just started talking about it this week, and I haven’t made any decisions yet.

TVLINE | But will there still be a bigger story, a through line along the lines of Amanda Tanner?
There is absolutely always going to be a through line, and we’re going to keep the pace as fast as we kept it this time. I feel like that’s important, the way that the story lays down, the way that the end of every episode turned what you were watching into something else.

TVLINE | Is that Season 2 through line necessarily the mystery of Quinn’s true identity?
That will be a part of it, absolutely.

TVLINE | Because outside of her being, like, the Lindbergh baby, I have no idea where you’re going with that.
[Chuckles] We joke about that. We call her “the Lindbergh baby” every once in a while. But she is definitely not the Lindbergh baby.

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TVLINE | I’ve told Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn that I am a little worried that, given what happens at the end of the finale, we will see less of POTUS next season — if Olivia in fact keeps Fitz at arm’s length, per the deal with Mellie…
The President of the United States is our leading man, so we are not going to see less of him.

TVLINE | Is Cyrus’ role in Amanda’s death a loose thread that is ever going to be tugged on, maybe later rather than sooner? Or is that just a piece of information for us to file away about him as the series progresses?
It’s going to be tugged on. When that tugging happens is not yet set.

TVLINE | I wanted to talk about character development. Because of the pace you had here, you couldn’t really delve into anybody outside of Olivia and Huck. Are you going to explore the other associates in drips and drabs here and there, or will it be, “This is the episode where you learn a bunch about Stephen,” “This is where you learn a bunch about Abby”…?
That was kind of the plan. We had our episode where you learned Abby’s backstory, and we had the episode that sort of focused on Huck. That works nicely. I don’t know how we’re going to lay out people’s pasts. We do it when it feels right for the story, when it feels like the right time. I think it was much for fun for us to not tell you exactly who everyone was in the beginning, to let you discover stuff as you went on.

TVLINE | I’ve had many of your actors – Tony Goldwyn and KaDee Strickland (Private Practice) included — sing your praises when it comes to casting. Still, does a part of you feel you lucked into something extremely special with Kerry and Tony and their off-the-charts chemistry?
Even though we just called Tony and offered him the part, I had worked with Tony. He directed some episodes of Grey’s and some episodes of Private prior to any of this, so I already had a feel for him. And in looking at Kerry, I remember saying, “God, wouldn’t it be great if we could get Tony Goldwyn?” It was just about matching them up together.

TVLINE | It’s important that the chemistry is there, because there are a lot of reasons to not root for this couple.
There are a million reasons not to root for this couple. I kind of love that we’ve created a world in which you’re rooting for an adulterous relationship. But you are, you’re rooting for them to be together despite every reason in the world for them not to be together. And yeah, their chemistry was a really important part of that. If I had gotten that wrong, we would have been screwed.

What did you think of Scandal‘s first season?

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. Barbara nelson says:

    I lovr scandal I had a great time watching.season 1 cant wait for season 2 this sho a has really hot me thinking but really like olivia pope and the president

  2. Patrony says:

    There should be a love child between Fitz and Olivia. The secret being that Fitz knows nothing about this child but the story gets centered on the secret. Olivia protects the child’s identity; maybe she tells her staff she has been artificially inseminated. Each episode puts Fitz on the brink of discovering that his love child exist. Of course Mellie would discover the secret and as usual, try to prevent any revelation of this huge secret from happening.

    • Dawn says:

      I agree with the Love child scenario; however, I think a more interesting way to introduce the love child into the picture is as the following: In a flashback sequence when Olivia realizes that she was indeed pregnant with the Fitz’s child and that is the actual reason why she had to leave the white house so abruptly. After leaving town and having the child, she return to Washington and did not divulge her secret to anyone because she knew that if her secret came out it could be used as a time bomb to torpedo Fitz’s presidency. Therefore, she decided to leave the child with her relative( her mother, played by Phylicia Rashad ) and return to Washington, in an effort to drive away suspicion and open her own Firm.

  3. Nicole Hall says:

    SCREAMING….”ALL HAIL MS. SHONDA RHIMES”!!!!! Unfrigginbelievable! Who does this level of intense writing and lay it all out there for the viewer in such a way that when its all said and done, and the plot is so thick…down to the last second of the final show, I let profanity roll of my tongue that would make anyone’s head whip! “Bleep Bleep Bleep..*!x%*….WHAT THE..Bleep Bleep %!#*…I NEED MORE”! Oh God forgive me (Praying hands)! Forget that I’m a faithful Grey’s and Private Practice freak, and now my TV time has it’s own special place on my weekly schedule (not a mental note, I mean penciled in)! Shonda, you could have shut Thursdays down honey and gave every network, TV/Reality show, the friggin News for Gods sake a run for their money and for their viewers! Bible honey,my eyes would have been glued from 8 to 11! But with anticipation of whats to come on every last show that carries the name “Shonad Rhimes”, there I’ll be…smilling from ear to ear, tweeting, posting, and screaming in my mother’s ear…”SHHHH…it’s about to start, I’ll call you at commercial”! Thank you Ms. Rhimes for your absolute genius! Nicole

  4. Karen567 says:

    I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS SHOW! Actually I love everything Shonda Rhimes related…I think she’s definitely one of the best television writers out there. And Scandal is so refreshing, it’s just so different in like so many ways and I’m really loving that.

  5. ScandalousAffairs says:


  6. Chriztian, Jasper says:

    This show is the best thing going since tv has come to our homes. I truely love it and can not wait till season two hits. I give it a million thumbs up. September 27 Thursday @ 10:30 be prepared and amazed viewers.

  7. Jazzietoo says:

    “Olivia” needs a little less lip. Annoying to watch her speak. This show has a lot of potential. Absurdly entertaining–political drama. Fix the freak!

  8. colelaila says:

    I am so looking forward to season 2. I enjoy thoroughly the work of Shonda Rimes! She is amazing! I am a true fan who sits on the edge of my seat with every series! Keep it coming! You make TV worth watching Shonda Rimes. Thank you =)

  9. Mrs.brownsugarsweet says:

    I think it sucks that Stephen is not apart of the next season, I really like him!!!! Who is going to be Olivia’s BFF? She really needs one you know? I am sooooo addicted to this show, and I’ve never been addicted to any show……… Well besides Ugly Betty! Lol!

  10. biabbexia says:

    что сделать чтобы добится успеха, при этом нисколько не умея делать?

  11. Deena Braun says:

    Last ep was pure crap. SR destroyed the “magic” of Olitz. Bad soap opera writing revealed SR is not ready for EPIC writing. Won’t be watching next season. Too bad I loved S1 and all the way through this finale where SR blew it.