Even though ABC’s Scandal is coming off its buzziest, most critically acclaimed season — and just netted a pair of Emmy nominations, including a historical nod for star Kerry Washington — the plan moving forward is to take things to the next level. And you can thank Cyrus Beane for that.
“We were all together after the first table read, just really excited to be back, celebrating,” Darby Stanchfield, who plays Abby, shares with TVLine. “And then Jeff Perry said, ‘Guys — we need to make it better.’ That instead of just continuing what we’re doing, we need to raise the bar. And we all kind of looked at each other and went, ‘Yeah. Let’s do it. Let’s give our audience more.’
“So that’s our goal this season,” she reiterates. “To bring more.”
More of exactly what, of course, is locked up in a vault somewhere in Shondaland. But the series’ stars did share a taste of what’s on tap as Season 3 picks up just moments after Olivia — freshly outed as President Grant’s mistress — greeted B613 boss man Rowan with the salutation: “Dad?!”
Though a surprise to us at home, do others in D.C. know of Liv’s family ties? “I don’t know if I can answer that…,” Washington hedges. “But I’ll say this: To discover who knows and who doesn’t is part of the ride.”
Then there’s the ginormous matter of the Olivia Pope being revealed as Fitz’s lover. Or is she? This is where Cyrus gets spinning. Assessing the state of the administration, Perry says, “We thought we were fine, that we had somehow escaped the guillotine of the election-rigging, Cytron and all that. But now someone, somewhere has leaked the ridiculous rumor that Olivia and the president were having an affair!” (Yes, that’s the chief of staff’s story and he’s sticking to it. Unless he is unable to.) “If my boss had to ‘fess up to that…. If Olivia Pope had to ‘fess up to that…. If they deny it, if one denies it and the other ‘fesses up…. It’s a whole multiplication table of a mess for Cyrus,” Perry sighs. “Just a giant mess.”
And that’s just the crucible facing the White House. What about Olivia’s own reputation, as all of D.C. gets buzzing about her bad behavior? Cue gladiators swinging into action, right? Maybe. Maybe not. “You know how it is on Scandal — whatever you think is going to happen is not what happens, because [creator] Shonda Rhimes is so smart,” Katie Lowes notes. “So while you would think [Quinn, Harrison et al ride to Liv’s rescue], it’s more complicated than that.”
Adds Stanchfield: “It is Olivia Pope after all, so there are many, many more layers and many, many more people involved.” Plus, she teases, “There may be one or two more bad guys who rear their heads, that may or may not be on the show already. It’s just really complex.”
Add in new wrinkles for the First Marriage (“The state of their union can be salvaged, the state of their union can be managed!” Bellamy Young triumphantly declares, prompting Washington to playfully interject: “Everything is a matter of perspective, Matt”) and the first big reveals in long-overlooked Harrison’s mysterious backstory, and you get a Season 3 opener “that feels like a season finale,” Columbus Short promises. “And that’s all I’m going to say!”
But fortunately for Scandal fans, we also asked each series regular to offer three random words (or phrases, as some did) to sum up the Oct. 3 premiere. Click through this gallery to see who said what.